Wednesday, September 20, 2017

September 20, 2017


“I love you!”

Think about how those 3 words
can mean so different - depending
on the moment: wedding day,
50th anniversary, or after a death
or a divorce or what have you.

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Tuesday, September 19, 2017



The title of my homily for this 24 Tuesday in Ordinary Time is, “Expectations: Don’t Forget the Adjectives.”

Today’s first reading from the First Letter of St. Paul to Timothy has a whole list of expectations for bishops, deacons, and women. Check out 1 Timothy 3:1-13.

Presbyters aren’t mentioned.  Moreover, we’re dealing here with the Early Church as they are slowly getting organized. In the gospels we hear about Jesus' followers being called disciples and apostles - then other titles and positions evolved.


Bishops are to be trustworthy, irreproachable, married only once, temperate, self-controlled, decent, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not aggressive, gentle, not contentious, not a lover of money. They need to be able to manage their own household and keep their kids under control. They are not to be a recent convert, nor conceited, but to have a good reputation among outsiders.

What qualifications would you have on your list?

Everyone has expectations about others.

Want to know what yours are for waitresses, other drivers, ushers, priests, spouses? Answer: simply jot down what you get angry about?


Dignified, not deceitful, not addicted to drink, not greedy, holds the faith, has a clear conscience. They are to only to be married once - as well as manage their own homes well.


Dignified, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in everything.


When I used to run workshops for church leaders, parishes, organizations, we taught people to use adjectives.

For example some adjectives would be: realistic, unrealistic, stated, unstated, possible, impossible.

Name a role like leader or teacher or priest and then jot down expectations for them. For example: pastor. Next add your expectations you have of them.  Like: never mentions money. Is available 24/7/365.  Then put an adjective like unrealistic  or possible in front of that expectation. For example, looking at today’s gospel, “can raise the dead”. Write in front of that expectation: “impossible”.

We have two new priests here. When people hear that, immediately, expectations kick in. It’s the same when we get a new pastor, bishop, deacon, or who have you. It’s the same when your son or daughter wants you to meet someone they are interested in. 

Expectations are expected.

So put down expectations for each role or position and then put an adjective in front of that expectation.

In a really small organization  - or team - or council -  that has worked together a lot - you could even put down each member’s name and put expectations in front of each name - and then adjectives in front of each expectation. Warning: trust and understanding better be at a high level for such a process. 


Any of you who have taken the Myers-Briggs personality test know that if a person is highly organized, very neat, always on time, perfectly dressed, they are less apt to be imaginative or creative.  I can say that from experience, because I am a slop - and the adjective I’d put in front of slob would be, “typical”.

Everyone who makes someone bishop or pastor, knows two things: not everyone has all the gifts and secondly, you have to deal with the players on the team that you have.  The pool is only so deep and so wide and these are the only people in or around the pool.

Too many people play fantasy parish, priest, spouse, neighbor, church….

Everyone wants superstars. Sorry there are not that many around.

Next there are scales: on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the best, how is this candidate when it comes to running a parish or a meeting or teaching or preaching - or being social, listening, etc. etc. etc.?

Next comes my question: can people change? Can people learn? Can we come up with new ways of running the ship? Can we really tell another that they don’t have it and they need to improve - but can anyone change over 70, 60, 50, 40, 30?  Each of us has to ask: have I ever changed? Have I been basic me all my life?

If I have changed, mellowed, grown, how did that happen? What triggered it, etc., etc., etc.

Years ago I remember being in a parish near Rochester NY, where I noticed the pastor hired this wonderful guy who could do books, plow snow, solve maintenance problems, etc. etc. etc. This left the pastor to do personal stuff - like visiting the sick and the homebound - and work on his homilies.


For the 8 ½ years before coming to Annapolis, I was in a different parish every week for about 20 to 25 weeks of the year. I saw a lot - and it gives me I think some experience in some of these expectation issues.  

My number one adjective - for many expectations - sorry to say - is “Unrealistic.”

And I think of myself as an optimist.

Pope Francis is calling on the church to have bishops who smell like sheep, get down there in the sweat and dirt of daily life - to be compassionate more than bosses. Those who want a church to slam and shame sinners, you’d get a disagreeable adjective from me.  Sorry ….


I’m a Luke 15 Catholic.

How’s that for a button or bumper sticker?

I’m a Luke 15 Catholic. 
September 19, 2017



Pivot, pry, pinch, pull,
trying, to tow, tug, take
us to an understanding
that God is sneaky.
God wants in - but God
doesn’t want to freeze
our freedom. God simply -
like in any love affair -
wants us because we
want God. It’s as simple
as that - as basic as that -
like the fuzz  on a peach - 
like the red water of a
watermellon - with black pits.
Got that yet? On God ....

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Monday, September 18, 2017

September 18, 2017


Would the blue and white and black
paintings  blush - when they saw how many
people paused at this painting compared
to the others in the room?  Some people,
some colors, some paintings,  give us 
pause and we praise this person and their accomplishments more than the others
in the room. And this can cause blush red or
green envy on other canvas faces in the room.
And I ask: "What have I done for you lately?"

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Come on now, haven't we all felt that way at times?

“UH OH!  OH NO!”

[I heard this Sunday's gospel - Matthew 18: 11-35 - at yesterday's  4:30 PM Mass at St. John Neumann. After Mass Archbishop Lori blessed and dedicated the new field house. It hit me at the Mass - “When you preach tomorrow, don’t mess up or put a wet blanket on Jesus’ story about forgiveness.”

Then I said to myself, “Maybe no sermon at all would be best. But you’re expected to preach, so compromise by writing the same story in other words, so that everyone hears again Jesus’ message loud and clear.” 

So here’s Jesus’ story - in a 2017 version. I entitled my story, “Uh Oh. Oh No.” I love the words, “Uh oh!” because I used them once in a sermon and a little kid somewhere in the church yelled out - as an echo, “Uh oh!’ and it got a good laugh.]


Jack was the head CPA for a chain of some 37 supermarkets.

His boss, Jim, spotted something wrong with the books - sort of by accident, sort of by intuition, sort of by instinct, sort of by experience.

He scratched his head one afternoon. He was by himself and he was looking at a spreadsheet on his computer and said, “Uh oh! Something’s wrong here.”

“Money’s missing.”

“These numbers don’t look right.”

They added up, but something was wrong.

It took Jim  2 1/2 months to figure it out. He figured out by the process of elimination that Jack - his chief accountant  - was the one who was stealing.

“Clever!” he thought. “Very clever.”

So one morning he asked Jack,  if they could meet over future planning.

Jack showed up. He had  no clue - that this moment was about to change his life.

Jim told Jack, “I noticed something’s funny with the books. They don’t add up.”

Jack thought to himself, “Uh oh! Oh no!”


Jim was looking Jack right in the eye - and Jack nervously looked down.

“Jack, I figured out, it could only be you. We’re missing about $153,000 dollars. What happened?”


Jack, rubbed his chin, scratched his Adam’s apple - pulling at it, and remained silent.

Jim repeated himself, “Jack, what happened?”


“Are you and Alice having money problems? Is it gambling? Tuition? Mortgage? What?”

Jack started to cry. Jack started to crumble and mumble. Jack go up and walked over to the window. Jack was scratching the top of his head and rubbing his scalp with his nails very rigorously.

Jack  then sat down in a corner couch and said, “Jim, I’m sorry. I blew it.”


“It was a whole series of things.”

“It started about a year and a half ago. Yeah it was tuition for starters. My two daughters wanted to go to college in out-of-state places. I was trying to be a good father - a good guy. ‘Wherever, I said ….’”

“Then it was my sister, she was stuck for money, and I gave her $5000.”

“Then it was credit card debt - about 10 credit cards - and I was the one who was so good with money.”

Jack began sobbing. Crying. Wiping his eyes with his sleeve.

“Jim, I’m sorry. Sorry. I betrayed you, us, the company.”

Jim remained silent and listened.

Jack said, “I don’t know what to say or do. Please, please, please. I can’t go to jail. I don’t know how I can repay you. In two years Alice and I can downsize and I can sell our house and I’ll try to pay you back slowly. I will. I will. Please.”

Jim came over to Jack and said, “Look. We have worked together for 17 years now. Let me see if I can help you get out of debt - so you can start again.

“I’ll forgive you everything - if you do me one favor. Let’s straighten out the books and you let me help you straighten out your money situation.”

Jack stopped sobbing and looked up at Jim’s face.

“What!  Why? You would do this for me?”

“Yeah,” said Jim. “When I first started working for this company I stole about $900 dollars. I needed money badly at the time.”

“I never got caught, but it has bothered me ever since.”

“In time I slowly put what I stole back into the till - little by little - or gave money to cashiers who I knew were low on cash.”

“But it has bothered me all my life.”

“What I want you to do is to let my forgiving you bother you for the rest of your life - especially when you see people not allowing other people to make mistakes.”

Then Jim said, “Jack I’m going out to one of our stores right now. Why don’t you just sit here for twenty minutes - and pull yourself together.”

Then Jim took out his wallet and took out $200 and said to Jack, “Here’s some money. Call Alice up and take her out for lunch. Enjoy.”

At Jack’s funeral, 27 years after that moment, his oldest daughter gave her dad’s eulogy. 

Amongst other things she said, “My dad was the most forgiving and understanding person I have ever known. He wasn’t always that way - especially when we were teenagers - but something happened that changed him - when we were in college - and wow. What a great guy to have as your dad.”

And Jim - sitting there - in church that morning wiped some tears from his eyes - but not the smile from his face.
September 17, 2017


There’s something about the coast
that grabs some people - while others
live out there with highways and towns
and cities as the edges of their existence.
Where were you born? What is the coast
of your where?  Where are you now?
I’ve lived much of my life on the edge
of water: the Atlantic Ocean, Spa Creek,
the Hudson, Lac La Belle, Wisconsin.
Do babies remember the sound and the
feeling of the fluid in their mother’s belly?
Do children love bathtubs, pools, hoses -
any water that reminds them of being
on the edge, the coast of their existence?

 © Andy Costello, Reflections  2017
Song Galway Bay, images of the coast
of Galway, Ireland where both
my parents are from.