Monday, October 23, 2017

October 26, 2017

ANOTHER MEETING

The speaker stood there
speaking on and on and on.
And after a while all I could see
was his mustache. All I could hear
was his meow, meow, meow.

And like Walt Whitman
or Carl Sandburg’s cat
all I wanted to do was to 
slowly and silently
slide my way out of this fog.

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017
October 25, 2017



BIRDS


                                                            E
                                                 A    K
                                            T
                                                                      A        O
                                                                         L  O  
                                                                                   K
                    A       E
                      T  H
                      T
                                        B       
                                           I   RD
                                             S

                                                                          R
                                                  O               I
                                                          F        A
                                                             T   E

                                                                H






© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017
October 24, 2017

REMINDERS

Reminders remain on the sidewalk
of my life like autumn leaves fallen down
from trees that once were so, so green.
Reminders - like match books in a clear
glass  jar on a table by the door with the
names of so many restaurants we went to,
so many conversations we had and some
we never finished …. . Remind me:
we need to talk. Reminders: death prayer
cards from too many funerals; bubble gum
baseball cards from when we were kids….
A song in the background while walking
into a store.... An old black and movie
on Turner Classics .... A faded T-shirt used
to wrap an 8 ½ by 11 inch wedding picture
of my parents - under glass that was on 
a side table in our living room all through 
our growing up years …. Reminders....
Regularly reminding me…. Tell me more.



© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017



RIGHTEOUSNESS


INTRODUCTION

The title of my homily is, “Righteousness.”

Last night I read today’s two readings and I wondered what would be a theme to say a few words about.

In the first reading from Romans the word “righteousness” hit me.

It’s a theme and an issue that shows up in the scriptures over and over again, so it must be a life issue that shows up over and over again.

TODAY’S FIRST READING

In today’s first reading Abraham is credited with being right.

He made the act of faith - in God’s promise to him.  Then Paul says he was right in doing this.

Then in today’s first reading Paul says we who make the act of faith in God who raised Jesus from the dead - Jesus who died to take away our sins - will be justified, saved.

EVERY HUMAN BEING

Is it safe to say that every human being wants to be right when it comes to what we figured out about life.

Is it safe to say that every human being wants to wake up after death.

Is it safe to say that every human being wants to look around after death and say to those who didn’t believe in life after death, “You were wrong.”

Is it safe to say that every human being wants to wake up after death and hear from God, “Welcome into the kingdom. You were right! You made it.”

Is it safe to say that every human being throughout life wants to be right.

In the marriage survey we give couples about to be married, there is a question that goes like this, “One of us always insists on being right.”

Agree…. Disagree …. Undecided….  Check one.

Every time I come to that question when I go through that questionnaire with couples, I find myself saying, “I think the suggested answer - "Disagree" - they give to that question is wrong. If you think you’re right, why would you think you're wrong?”  I add, “Maybe they are getting at the word “insist” or “always” I don’t know.

MAYBE THE PHARISEES CAN HELP US WITH ALL THIS

The Pharisees in the gospels are knocked for being so obnoxious about being right and the others are all wrong.

When it comes to religion, righteousness shows up like a barking Rottweiler or pit bull at times.

I suspect that’s what the gospels are trying to tell us.

Jesus is killed because the Pharisees insisted that they were right about God the Father and Jesus was wrong in his comments about the Father.

I would assume we’re being called to be like Jesus - to speak our truth - but without being obnoxious about it.

I would assume that we’re being called to be at peace with one another.

I would assume that we have some humility and hesitation when it comes to being right and labeling someone else as wrong.

CONCLUSION

The man in today’s gospel is wrong about how long he is to live - and finds that out - perhaps too late  - like tonight when he is going to die.

October 23, 2017

BOOK REVIEWS

Make them better than the book.
Please make them informative,
catching my bookaphilia and interest,
because I’m never going to be able
to read all the books I want to read.



© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017





Sunday, October 22, 2017



I AM MADE IN THE IMAGE
AND LIKENESS OF GOD


INTRODUCTION

The title of my homily is, “I Am Made In The Image and Likeness of God.”

It’s not our Bible text for today - but in today’s first reading Isaiah mouths that theme and the beware of other gods’ theme from  Genesis 1: 26-27 and Exodus 20: 1-11 where Moses gives us Ten Commandments.

Evidently the Israelites had tendencies to go to other gods for extra help in life - especially when tough times were a coming and occurring.

IMAGE

But let me use the whole text from Genesis 1: 26-27 - because in this homily I want to connect it to today’s gospel, when Jesus asks, “Whose image is on this coin?”

When the Pharisees plotted on how to entrap Jesus they chose a tax question to try to trap him. They asked Jesus, “Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?”

Jesus says back at them, “Show me the coin that pays the census tax?”

They hand him the Roman coin.

He asked them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?”

They replied, “Caesar’s.”

We would say, when looking at a penny, Lincoln; a nickel, Jefferson; a dime, Harry S. Truman; a quarter, Washington; and Andrew Jackson on the twenty dollar bill - the most important president whom my dad named me after.

And if there is one Bible text that most people know it’s “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

That idea of image appears in another text we all know, “We’re made in the image and likeness of God.”

In this homily I want to  reflect on the idea of image on the coin and I’m using the text about image that we hear in the first chapter of the first book of the Bible.

Genesis 1:26-27 goes like this: “Then God said: ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and the cattle, and over all the wild animals and all the creatures that crawl on the ground.  God created man in his image, in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them.”

OVER 200 MEANINGS

Walter Burkhardt - the Jesuit - once gave a course on this text from Genesis 1: 26-27 where we hear that we are made in the image of God.

I was able to attend the first two talks he gave. I remember he said that there are over 200 different interpretations and possible understandings on what that phrase could mean.  He searched them out from hundreds and hundreds of theologians and writers in our Church - down through the centuries.

SUGGESTION

I like to suggest that people use a rosary for prayer  - and not just for Hail Mary’s.

I recommend that you take a rosary and say on the 59 beads: “I am made in the image and likeness of God.”

It takes 5 minutes.

Take a rosary in hand - sit in a nice soft chair - or in your bedroom and on your bed - or while driving.

59 times. 59 beads: “I am made in the image and likeness of God.”

That’s my homily thought for today.

NO STRANGE GODS

If any of us has  a metal detector and we walked around on the ground in the Middle East we would get beep, beep, from coins - and nothing for paper money.

We would also come up with small statues of gods - if they are made of silver or some other metal.

We could have the same experience by walking through any museum that holds antiquities.

Just as we could see in many homes in Puerto Rico on TV this past two weeks after Hurricane Maria images of Mary and images of Jesus, the people of the Middle East and I would say the world - have images of God or the gods for help in times of trouble. Life has its storms and wars and rumors of wars and family struggles.

The second commandment screams that these images - these idols - are not God. “You can’t have strange gods before me.”

So what Genesis is saying is that these tiny statues are not images of God.

Then it says that the only image of God is us.

We are living images of God.

Our call in life is to show God to each other.

HOW

Let me give a few ways we can image God for others.

For starters, by being creative.

Genesis begins by God being creative - that’s a main name for God - the Creator.

So grab your crayons and your clay, your paints and your meal making skills - baking bread and making cakes.

Crafts, crafts, crafts.

Be creative in your speaking and writing.

Is there a poet inside you that is dying to get out - a poet that’s been in the bottom drawer or under your bed for the last 44 years?

Next love one another. The scriptures tell us God is love - so when we love we are imaging and imagining  God to one another.

Next God is both humble and powerful. Let use our powers to make this a better world. Let’s be humble enough to lift the other person up and put them first.

Next look at Jesus. There was a theology for centuries called, “The Imitation of Christ.”  As Jesus said to his apostles, “See me, see the Father.”

So by imitating Jesus - going about doing good - we show the world we move around in: how God looks.

Could we say each day: see me, see God?

See me, see an image of God.

CONCLUSION

The title of my homily is, “I am Made in the Image of God.”

I said a practical prayer trick is to take a rosary and say 59 times: “I Am Made In The Image and Likeness of God.”


Next I presented a few ways to be like God. Then as Nike puts it - Nike meaning victory: Just Do It.

WHOSE COIN
AM I:
CAESAR’S OR GOD’s?


OPENING IMAGE

Poets often see what others don’t see and point out in their poems what we could have seen, but didn’t see. 

For example, take Michel Quoist, a priest and a poet. In his book called  Prayers, now a classic, he wrote a poetic prayer entitled, “Prayer Before A Twenty Dollar Bill.”

Everybody would notice the “20” on a twenty dollar bill. Some people might notice Andrew Jackson’s picture on it, but wouldn’t most people stop there?

Quoist looked at a twenty dollar bill and began to imagine the history of that particular bill. He began to imagine its secrets. He wondered how many hands did it pass through? How many people possessed it for a few hours? Did anyone cheat for it? Did anyone fight for it? Who worked for it?

He imagined it being used to buy roses for a fiancee - food for a baby - bread for the family table - a book to teach a child with - clothes for a young girl. He also sees it used to buy stamps to send a letter to break an engagement. Was it used to help pay a doctor for an abortion? Was it used to buy liquor by a alcoholic? Was it used to produce a movie unfit for children or an indecent song? Was it used to buy a weapon for a crime or wood for a coffin?

Those are some of things a poet might see in a twenty dollar bill. He ends his prayer by talking to the Lord, who knows the history and the mystery of that $20 dollar bill, who knows its joyful and sorrowful mysteries, and thanks the Lord for the good it was used for and forgiveness for the harm it might have been added to.

HOMILETIC REFLECTIONS

When we listen to today’s gospel, we might be surprised  that Jesus didn’t even know whose picture or whose image was on a common coin.

Didn’t Jesus the poet and the person of prayer ever look at a coin? Didn’t Mary ever give Jesus a coin to play with while she was preparing supper? Didn’t Joseph ever take Jesus up on his lap and teach him history with the use of money? Didn’t Joseph receive coins for work done as a carpenter? Or was everything done by barter: a loaf of bread for fixing a chair, a jug of wine for fixing a door?

We don’t know. Yet we do know that Jesus taught a great lesson in today’s gospel from a common coin: “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, but give to God what is God’s.” That sentence, that saying of Jesus, certainly has gotten a lot of mileage down through the centuries. The version most of us are familiar with is: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” It’s one of those Biblical sayings that everyone seems to remember. We’ve all heard politicians and preachers use it down through the years. 

Jesus must have had some idea of the political situation of his day. Roman soldiers could be seen in the streets and on the roads of Palestine since they had conquered Jerusalem 63 years before his birth. He must have known about the crunch of high taxes and the endless disputes in the temple about paying taxes to the foreigners - whether paying taxes to the Romans was against the Jewish religion or what? He must have know that the Zealots, a Jewish revolutionary group refused to pay taxes or cooperate with the Romans. He surely didn’t just spend all his time looking at birds of the air. He had to know what was happening on the ground.

When we listen to today’s gospel, it’s obvious that once more Jesus is being set up for an attack. In the section of the gospel of Matthew where today’s gospel comes from, it’s the third attempt by the Pharisees of Jerusalem to discredit Jesus before the crowd. Were these Pharisees scared of Jesus because the day before he came into Jerusalem in the big “Palm Sunday parade” with crowds praising him on all sides? Were they angry at him because the day before he also expelled the money changers from the temple? Were they trying to get back at him because today he told three parables, all of which were aimed directly at them? In this third attack they sent some of their disciples and a few Herodians to try to trap him. They tried to put him between the horns of a dilemma, between a rock and a hard place, by asking him if it were permissible to pay taxes to Caesar of not. And Jesus slides through their trap with his classic answer, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, but give to God what is God’s.”

For Christian communities in the years that followed, these words of Jesus were saved and used to deal with serious questions on how to be a good citizen and how to be a good Christian.

Without falling into the trap of being dualistic or the trap of trying to be a citizen of just one world (here or hereafter?), Jesus’ words are a good slogan or motto to keep in mind.

We need politicians. We need government. We need laws and courts and roads and police. We pay taxes and tolls and we benefit from some tax money. We trust most of our food and our medicines because of F.D.A. approval.

All of us can’t be chiefs. Some of us need to be Indians. And we know that some leaders are good public servants. Some people in city hall help us. In today’s first reading we heard about Cyrus who conquered Babylon in 539 B.C. and granted freedom to all the people who had been forced to live and work there. As a result the Israeli’s were able to go home. We have seen leaders like that arising in Eastern Europe in our time and we hope that more leaders, who will free people instead of enslaving them,  will come forth in the future.

So we need our Caesar’s and our Cyrus’. But we also need our God. We need to render our lives to both. That’s what Jesus’ words tells us today.  Jesus’ words have a nice balance to them. “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, but give to God what is God’s.”

But they are just words until we live them. So the next step is to do what Paul recommends in today’s second reading. What Jesus says in the gospel are not just a matter of mere words, but they have power. And that power is the power of the Holy Spirit, the power that comes with the realization that we have been chosen. We are the beloved of God. Therefore, we have the power to give to God what is God’s and to Caesar, what is Caesar’s.

PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS

Now to be practical, today’s words of Jesus are like a good bumper sticker message. They are a good sign to hang on a wall in front of us. “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, but give to God what is God’s.”

Let’s take Caesar and God one at a time: first Caesar, then God. I hope God won’t mind being put in second place.

1) Caesar can be anyone: our boss, our spouse, our children, our parents, our local community. We are called to serve others. We are our brother’s and our sister’s keeper. We are called to render service and love to our neighbor. We are called to be good citizens.

In his “Essay on Civil Disobedience”, Henry David Thoreau makes reference to Jesus’ words about rendering to Caesar what is Caesar’s. Written back in 1849 it still has challenge after challenge for the Christian and the citizen of today. He calls us to challenge any government, local or national - and we could add church - that is self serving and gets in the way or has lost its integrity. “Let every man - and today we would add “woman” - make known what kind of government would command his respect, and that will be one step toward attaining it.” He points out that our government is so often the rule of the majority and often issues are dealt with not on the basis of justice or conscience, but on physical strength and expediency. The result is the poor and the minority lose. He makes an interesting interpretation of Jesus’ words. Since you Herodians “gladly enjoy the advantages of Caesar’s government, then pay him back some of his own when he demands it.” Then Thoreau adds, “`Render therefore to Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and to God those things which are Gods’ - leaving them no wiser than before as to which was which; for they did not wish to know.”

If we wish to know how to be a good neighbor, how to be a good citizen, a good worker, a good spouse, a good parent, often it’s not giving the other  money, it’s giving them our time and our very self. Too many parents give money or the games money can buy to get rid of their kids. Once more the gospel challenges us with tough issues. Is their anyone in our life whom we are not rendering service to?  Is there a soup kitchen or a nursing home in our area that needs volunteers? Is there a rescue squad that could tax us with a bit of our time? Or to return to actual taxes, is there any use of tax money that needs to be protested? These are the kind of questions that should tax us.

2) Next we come to God. Are we giving God his due? Do we pray? Do we worship? Do we acknowledge God as our Creator not just in word, but in deed? Do I really believe that God made me for a purpose, that God has an actual plan for me?

Jesus looked at the coin and asked whose image or picture or head was on it. They answered, “Caesar’s.” If Jesus looked at us and asked whose image or picture is on us, what would we answer? Every once and a while it’s a good idea to look in a mirror for 5 minutes - 300 seconds. Try it. It’s a good meditation. Stare at your face and into your eyes and ask, “Whose image am I? Who am I? Who owns me? Who do I work for? What am I about? Why was I created? Can I be bought? Do I have a price?”

And hopefully we will answer, “I am God’s. I am made in the image and likeness of God. I’m not just Caesar’s”. Aren’t we God’s coin - created and minted by God? Who else but God could put together a computer as great as our brain? Who else could make a camera as great as our eyes? Who else could make a speaker as great as our voice? Who else could make a vacuum as great as our mouth? We are billion dollar machines with God’s image on us.

When we look back on our life, we have to admit we often sold ourselves out for much less. Who of us picture ourselves as valuable as a billion dollars? My God, don’t we see ourselves more like the $20 dollar bill that Michael Quoist mentioned earlier? And like that $20 dollar bill, we have often done things we want to keep secret.

We sit here in Church every Sunday knowing where we have been last week. We know whether we earned our pay last week or whether we were on eternal coffee breaks. We know whether we gave our kids the time of our lives. We know whether we treated the gigantic coin called earth with God’s image also stamped on it well last week or whether we tarnished it.

CONCLUSION

We know down deep whether we are giving to God and whether we are giving to Caesar. And hopefully we also know  what Michel Quoist said at the end of his “Prayer Before a Twenty Dollar Bill,” “O Lord, I offer you this bill with its joyous mysteries, its sorrowful mysteries. I thank you for all the life and joy it has given. I ask your forgiveness for the harm it has done.”


We can take his prayer and say a prayer for ourselves, “O Lord, I offer you my life with its joyous mysteries, its sorrowful mysteries. I thank you for all the life and joy you have given me. I ask your forgiveness for all the harm I have done.”