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Funeral Mass – John Worthington

John Worthington’s Funeral Mass
Holy Name of Mary, Hunters Hill, 21 April 2022


First Reading, Book of Job – 19:1, 23-27.

Then Job answered:

23  “O that my words were written down!
O that they were inscribed in a book!
24  O that with an iron pen and with lead
they were engraved on a rock forever!
25  For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and that at the last he will stand upon the earth;
26  and after my skin has been thus destroyed,
then in my flesh I shall see God,
27  whom I shall see on my side,
and my eyes shall behold, and not another.
My heart faints within me!

Responsorial Psalm – 27: 1, 5-6, 7-9, 13-14

1   The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?
5   For he will hide me in his shelter
in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
he will set me high on a rock.
6   Now my head is lifted up
above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent
sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the Lord.
7   Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud,
be gracious to me and answer me!
8   “Come,” my heart says, “seek his face!”
Your face, Lord, do I seek.
9      Do not hide your face from me.
Do not turn your servant away in anger,
you who have been my help.
Do not cast me off, do not forsake me,
O God of my salvation!

13  I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
14  Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!

Second Reading, Second Letter of Paul to the Corinthians – 2 Corinthians 4: 14-18

We know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence. 15 Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
16 So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. 17 For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, 18 because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.

The Gospel according to John – 14:1-6

14 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And you know the way to the place where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”.


Michael Whelan SM

On Sunday afternoon, 30 January 1965, John Worthington went to the seminary at Toongabbie with fourteen other young men – including Kev Bates and myself and John Palmer who is here today with his wife, Barbara.

I think we were generous, idealistic and naïve. Everything seemed possible. Over the years, the hard fact that life is ultimately uncontrollable and incomprehensible – gradually focused the generosity, tempered the idealism and turned the naivete into some kind of rough wisdom.

All of us seek the way to peace with the uncontrollable and the incomprehensible. It is probably fair to say that that struggle is really at the heart of human existence – whether we acknowledge it or not. How well we wage that struggle will determine how deeply we live into our humanity. All the great religions of the world bear testimony to this.

The uncontrollable and the incomprehensible take on a special intensity when we are faced with suffering and death. Be it our own or that of another. John was plunged into the midst of this for the last sixteen years of his life.


There is a seminal moment in the Hebrew Scriptures when Moses encounters God in the burning bush on Mt Sinai – see Exodus 3:1-15. There are two primary revelations here. Firstly, the promise is given: “I shall be with you!” Secondly, God is revealed as one who remains hidden: “I am who I am!” At times, that “presence” may be experienced by us as “absence”.

The twofold revelation does not resolve the struggle. Such a resolution would imply that we are dealing here with a problem and problems have solutions. In fact, we are brought face to face with a great mystery. That demands surrender. And humility and trust and reverence. “Take off your shoes, you are on sacred ground!”


In our first Reading, Job surrenders to the “I am”. And so, against the problem-solving rhetoric and “solutions” of his friends, Job simply proclaims:

     I know that my Redeemer lives.
The Psalmist speaks with the same faith:
     The Lord is my light and my salvation.

But the Psalmist also adds something of great importance:
whom shall I fear?

This is the most oft-repeated refrain in the whole Bible: “Don’t be afraid!” We hear it again in the Gospel today. Yet, we should note that that very refrain implies the human heart may in fact find reason for fear in this experience. And so, the Psalmist encourages us by drawing our attention to God who waits for us in the very heart of the experience:

14  Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!

Our struggle is a mysterious waiting with God who waits with us.

St Paul takes us deeper still: This Exodus faith – voiced by both Job and the Psalmist – finds its fulfilment in Jesus Christ:

So we do not lose heart. … our inner nature is being renewed day by day … preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure.

Christian faith is eschatological. It is a journey. That journey is defined throughout by the end which is ours in Christ. And so, we hear the words of Jesus in the Gospel:

“I am the way, the truth and the life”

It is ultimately not answers that our hearts seek. All human beings in fact seek a way. A way to live at peace with the mystery of it all.

For the disciples of Jesus Christ, it is by living through him, with him and in him that we find ourselves on the Way – the Way to peace with the uncontrollable and the incomprehensible.


I have no doubts at all that John discovered the Way. I think of his life as a human being, as a Marist confrere and as a friend, as a journey from the generous, idealistic and naïve teenager to an adult of great and increasing generosity, with an idealism tempered – but not destroyed – in the crucible of existence and a kind of rough wisdom generally wrapped in John’s own quirky humour.

We rejoice in his life. We are grateful for his time with us and especially his contribution over more than fifty seven years to our life and work as Marists.