Tuesday, April 25, 2017


[Since today is the feast of St. Mark, I asked him to make some comments at our Mass this morning.]

My name is Mark. I’m here to say one thing today: “Read my Gospel! Read my Good News about Jesus Christ.”

If you bring up a Bible after Mass today, I’ll even sign your Bible - on the last page of my Gospel. I’d prefer to put my mark there - my name there - instead of up front.

I don’t consider myself a great writer. In fact, I wanted in my gospel to simply report  the doings of Jesus more than the sayings of Jesus. 

That doesn’t mean I don’t give some of Jesus’ teachings about how to live as if you’re in the Kingdom of God - some parables, some other sayings of Jesus. But I mainly want to tell you about the healing miracles Jesus did to make life better for those who were sick and blind and paralyzed.

I did my homework. I   walked with Paul for a while and heard and read some of his messages about Jesus in his letters.  I also listened to Peter and heard about his experiences of knowing Jesus.

But I was no slave to either Peter and Paul.  I listened to other sources.  I simply tried to line up the life of Jesus for anyone who wanted to know what he was like and what he was about.

Jesus was a carpenter from the north - up there near the Lake of Galilee. He didn’t start preaching till he heard about John the Baptist’s call to our nation to repent - to change - to return to our Jewish roots - to go down to the Jordan River - to go into those waters and come up the other side like our ancestors did when they came into this land.  The front part of my gospel is about Jesus  going about doing good.    Then as I head into the bottom quarter of my gospel  - I tell about his trip down south to Jerusalem to face his destiny and to face the leaders of his people who needed a wakeup call.

Jesus was simply a carpenter who became a preacher.

He did that when he was around 30 and like any prophet and teacher and preacher he expected death for standing up to what God wants of him.

He didn’t like the way his fellow Jews were practicing their religion. It was too strict - too tough - too legalistic. They were like a fig tree - but one that didn’t produce any fruit.

It didn’t reflect the Kingdom - the way he saw  God wanting us to do life.

He taught us that the message is this - that the law is simple: love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. That’s the first and greatest commandment and the second is: you must love your neighbor as yourself.

He called disciples by name to follow him. Some did. Some didn’t - walking away empty.

Early on he understood bread - people’s hunger for bread. Later on he saw people’s hunger for the bread of life - and he became that life in that bread - but he didn’t tell and do that till near the end of his life.

After preaching and healing in the North, he walked South. It was then that all hell broke loss. He told his disciples this secret - that this was going to happen - that the cross - suffering - and death - is on his horizon

When we got to Jerusalem the Pharisees made their move to destroy him.

Judas one of the key disciples sold Jesus out. He betrayed Jesus. Money, disappointment in Jesus’ mission, thinking it was more here than hereafter,

Jesus was arrested in the night.

First he had his Last Supper with his disciples. It was at the Passover Meal. He took bread. He took wine. He said, “This is my body. This is my blood. This is the Kingdom coming.”

Then he went out into the night - prayed in a garden - where he was arrested.

His disciples panicked. They fled Jesus. They deserted him. Peter denied that he even knew Jesus.

Now he was all alone  before the Sanhedrin and the Roman authorities. He was mocked, spat at, ridiculed, crowned with thorns.

The next day - when put on trial - the crowd screamed, “Crucify hm. Crucify him.”

And that’s what they did, executing him on a cross

It must have been horrible - yet he went through his passion - till the end.

He screamed out from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you deserted me?”

But his death wasn’t the end.

On the early morning after the Sabbath of that death week - a new day arose - and his disciples discovered that he rose from the dead - and appeared to Mary of Magdala and several of his disciples

Jesus closed by telling us to start like he did - be baptized - and then go into the whole world and proclaim his good news - his gospel to all.

This then is what I’m doing.

I found out later that my gospel was the first and shortest - so start with me. Then read Matthew. He was more organized. Then Luke who told the best parables. Lastly John who was more poetic.

Thank you. 
April 25, 2017

Reflections on the Feast of Saint Mark

Monday, April 24, 2017



The title of my homily is, “How Many Times Have You Been Reborn?”

That’s a question that hit me when I read today’s gospel from John 3:1-8.

We’ve all heard the word, “reborn” or “born again” and when it shows up in Christian conversations,   it’s from the gospel of John.

Nicodemus is told by Jesus that he has to be born again from above - otherwise he cannot see the Kingdom of God.


Most mornings I usually glance through the New York Times which we get - to see what’s happening around the world.

This morning I noticed on page 3 for today, Monday, April 24, 2017,  the following:  

“To Stay Married, Embrace Change
In her Modern Love column, Ada Calhoun urges readers not to get caught up in the ‘end of history’ illusion - the belief that a spouse’s personality and habits solidify at the moment of marriage.  Partners are people, and people change, she argues, a perspective that the married members of the audiences applauded.

I then tracked down the column from last Friday, April 21st, where that comment was made. It was very interesting, scary, challenging, and thought provoking.  And not only was there an article to read, but there were 281 comments as well.”

People who were married 50, 47, 37, 6, 16 years wrote in their comments.

People who were divorced wrote in comments.

Putting both together,  I ask the question I started with, “How Many Times Have You Been Reborn.”

I was ordained a priest with 15 other guys. 9 left the priesthood. 2 came back - one to the Redemptorists and one became a diocesan priest.

I know of one who was married and divorced and remarried.

I don’t know if they would use the language of being reborn or what have you.


I see a homily - especially on a weekday - having one key thought - or one key question.

I don’t see any of us able to answer the question, if a question is presented, during the Mass or at the moment. However, I would think that it’s a good homily if something hits a person there and then and they continue processing what hit them well after the Mass is over.

For example, I preached 3 times yesterday - on the question of forgiveness - especially a person dealing with life mistakes - or sins - or hurts - in the upper room of one’s mind - more than in the confession box in a church.

After the 5:30 a man - never noticed him before - came up to me in the crowd of people leaving Mass - and said to me something like, “You said something that I have been wrestling with all my life - and I never thought about it - the way you talked about it this evening.”

Then someone else jumped in - and then another - and then another - and then we went out to dinner at Macaroni Grill - and at 10:30 last night - while watching a baseball game - I was sitting there - thinking about what that man - whoever he was  -  what he said. And I thought and prayed - I hope I see him again. I hope he was challenged and is processing what hit him or what have you.

Did what I said,  help him?

Will it lead to a life change?

I don’t know.


But each of us can go inside our  upper room - out mind. That’s the metaphor and the reality in yesterday’s gospel. We can walk around inside our head and look at our  life.

Change. Rebirth. A new me….

We can divorce other people.  Can we divorce ourselves?

Am I the same me that I was at 7 years old?

Do we ever harden like cement?

Do we change?

Do people change dramatically or do people change slowly - like the paint on the walls of our homes?

Who judges?

A family member - who hadn’t seen me in a long time once said, “You’ve changed!”

There were dozens of meetings at that occasion - a wedding, a funeral, or a family get together, I’m not sure what the occasion was, but that was the only conversation or comment from that day that I remembered.

Dumb me - didn’t ask - and I still haven’t asked what this family member meant.

As priest she had a chance to see me up front - on stage - so I wondered if that triggered her comment.

I don’t know.

I assume that we are the best person to make the judgment - but with help from others.

I also assume that geographical changes can bring about changes in us.

What else? 

How about deaths, divorces, loss of jobs, retirements….

I remember hearing in a talk about the essential self, the nuclear self, the central self, that changes less than other self-stuff.

I am still wondering about that.

I know that I know more now that I knew 10, 20, 30 years ago.

I know that I don’t want to become cold and crusty - and be a selfie - that can be selfish and self-centered.

I know,  I want to be better not worse.

I know, I need to read, study, be self-reflective.

I know,  I have to shut up, take long walks, drive with the car radio off - and dig into stuff I need to dig into more.


The title of my homily was, “How Many Times Have I Been Reborn?”

For some reason I have always liked the number 5 - I have 5 fingers and 5 ties - so that’s a manageable number. So I’m going to work on coming up with 5 rebirths.

Your turn - your take - on this topic and theme and question. 
April 24, 2017


God, help me with this one.
Are the people who write
about this right - that prayer
can change people’s minds?

A little old lady is sitting there
in her afgan covered chair
and she’s praying that her
children’s children get their
kids baptized - like right now.

Is she hoping You send a
whisper suggestion to them:
“Hey parent, don’t you realize
that people need faith  - and -
a reliance of Me when it comes
to dealing with the big stuff:
death, a shaky marriage,
their kids on drugs, or a
dozen other big things?”

If someone prays for courage
today - when facing a classroom
filled with kids who are being
bullied by a handful of kids in
their class and they are not
getting any help from downstairs -
will praying give them some courage?

What about free will? What about
serendipity?  What about time?
Does time force everyone to their
knees or to their worry beads?

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Painting on top:  Old Woman Praying.
Paintings below have artists name or title of the painting underneath the painting.

Old Woman at Prayer, Nogari Giuseppe, 1763


Old Woman with a Rosary, Paul Cezanne


Old Woman Praying, Matthias Stom


Old Woman Praying with a Prayer Book 
by Hans Barttenbach, 1908

Sunday, April 23, 2017



The title of my homily is, “Having the Power to Forgive Sins.”

That’s an awesome power - the ability, the gift of being able and to choose to forgive sins.

I’m going to say in this homily that it’s not just priests who have this power.

We just heard some powerful words from Jesus in the gospel of John.

The disciples were behind closed doors, locked doors, enclosed in fear.

It was evening. It was still the first day of the week - the night Jesus rose from the dead. Jesus came through walls - into a locked room -  and said, “Peace be with you.”

Jesus showed them his hands where the nails were. He showed them his side where he was pierced by the spear. 


He again said, “Peace be with you!”

Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” [John 20:23]

Those are profound words. Hear them loud and clear.  That’s a powerful message. Let’s make them our own.


Thomas was not there for  that moment.  This Sunday was called Doubting Thomas Sunday for centuries. It’s now called Divine Mercy Sunday.  Good, but don’t get caught up with these repeated prayers people say over and over and over again - and miss the powerful message of forgiveness and mercy - underneath those prayers. [Cf. Matthew 6: 5-9]

Also because Thomas is the Patron Saint of Doubters - realize when it comes to forgiveness and mercy -  we all  have at times deep down doubts about forgiveness and mercy.

Lord, have mercy on us - all  of us.


Sometimes people only look at today’s gospel text about holding onto and letting go of sin - as a reference to the Sacrament of Confession or Reconciliation.

Yet -  let me begin with Confession and the Sacrament of  Reconciliation.

In 1965 our class of 16 - were ordained priests.

But we were not allowed to hear confessions till another year. We were ordained priests early - so as to say Masses on weekends in many small parishes in Ulster County,  New York - near our seminary - near Kingston, New York.

We still had to finish another year of Moral Theology - before we could hear confessions. All this was part of the four years of theology - we had after finishing college.

I remember the first weekend I heard confessions. We had practiced a lot - but we were still nervous. The key was to be compassionate and understanding and everything is kept secret under the seal of confession.

It’s now 51 years later and I must say I have heard lots and lots of confessions and have forgotten every one of them. 

I also remember for some reason when I used to go back and forth from LaGuardia Airport in New York to Milwaukee, In doing that I would travel in my black priest suit and collar - something I don’t always do.

Usually - at least one person seeing a priest in an airport - would come over and ask for confession.  So I guess, when nervous - it was either a drink or confession. So I’ve heard confessions in churches, airports, hospitals, supermarkets and various other places.

By accident - in the 1990’s - I was asked to help every summer on AA retreats for men at Olivet College in Olivet, Michigan. Someone thought I was someone else - a priest who was a recovering alcoholic - so that’s why I received the invitation.

On that first retreat for about 250 men,  I was told I didn’t have to give any talks. However,  when I got there,  I was asked to give one of the talks to the group - because a Protestant minister couldn’t make it.

If you are familiar with AA meetings the person who stands up to speak says, “Hi. My name is________. I am an alcoholic.” Well, because I never drank, I said, “Hi, my name is Andrew and I’m not an alcoholic.” That woke people up for starters. I said up front “the only drink - besides altar wine - which I don’t like - I only take a slight sip - was a drop of Four Roses in a milk shake once - when I was a kid and  I was home alone.”

I told the group that I put into this homemade milk shake - milk, ice cream, sprinkles, Jell-O, ginger ale, a drop of Four Roses and two drops of Vanilla extract.

At that this whole crowd of men started to chant - a certain word - louder and louder - and over and over again - I only will give two letters from that word - “BS”.

That’s the only time that ever happened to me - in giving a talk or what have you.

I’m surprised that it didn’t happen at various other times as well.

Does anyone want to start that today?

I mention that experience because a major reason they had 2 or 3 priests, 2 or 3 ministers and a rabbi at that retreat - was because of the 5th step in the 12 steps of the AA program.

The 4th  step states that everyone who wants to move forward makes an honest and soul searching inventory of their whole life. They write it down and then in the 5th step they can choose to voice that story to another person.

The men would sign up for a half-hour time slot and drop in to see one of the ministers or priests or rabbi’s. Of course they could go to a sponsor or a therapist etc. etc. etc. for their 5th Step.

We would start listening around 9 PM - a half hour per guy - and go till 2 or 3 AM.  Let me tell you - those moments were exhausting - draining  - and 100 times more specific - and what have you - than someone going to the Sacrament of Reconciliation or Confession.

The idea is forgiveness - the idea is honesty - the idea is getting stuff off one’s chest. The idea is to avoid BS to oneself - obviously.

In AA one hears over and over again, “We are as sick as our secrets.”


Those words from Jesus about “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained” can be applied not just to priests and ministers and rabbis - but to everyone.

Everyone has the power to listen, to understand, to keep secrets - to let sins, mistakes, hurts, be outed from their life - and in doing this, the possibility of forgiveness can happen that much more gracefully.

I was taught in Moral Theology - for the Sacrament of Confession - which was renamed the Sacrament of Reconciliation - that the Letter of James meant what it says, when we read, “Confess your sins to one another.” [James 5:16.]

Every priest has heard 100 persons in their life say, “Why do I have to tell my sins to a priest. I go directly to God.” 

Every priest is tempted to say in response, “In other words, you’re saying, you find it difficult to talk about your life and your mistakes to yourself. Welcome to the club?”

If invited, I might  say, “It would be great if people  went to God with their life and their sins and their blessings. It would also be helpful to go to a priest with gut sin patterns - not  the petty stuff some folks think at times is deadly or mortal - stuff they bring to confession over and over again - and then sometimes say, ‘I don’t know what to confess.’" *

Then I would add the pitch I’m making in this homily about talking with each other about our relationships - where we are - where we need to grow - what we love about each other and what is driving us bonkers at times.

In other words: it’s great you go to God - but how about to one another?

In other words, if I hurt my spouse or my kids or say something bad about a co-worker - I should ask that person for forgiveness.

The Sacrament of Confession for some - stress on “for some” - can be very helpful for  big sins - adultery - big time stealing - and renouncing one’s faith.

Warning: it is very helpful to tell the other face to face - but sometimes this is not the right move - because of a variety of possible reactions - and plenty of "uh oh!" is the result.  

The whole family situation could fall apart if someone tells their spouse they cheated on them. Cheating on one’s spouse  is very messy business. Recovery when the other finds out - can call for massive amounts of trust rebuilding up again.

Sometimes the lesser of two pains is going it alone.


But I was taught early on - here is where the Sacrament of Reconciliation can help big time.

But let’s go a step further and deeper - and concentrate mainly on the person who is into a sin.

Each of us has the power to hold onto mistakes against ourselves - or others - as well as being hurt by another. 

We all have our story - and we pay the price - if we go it alone without God, others and self in the right way.

It’s right there that I would want to especially understand the words of Jesus in today’s gospel.

I want to see Jesus going through the locked doors of my skull - see the whole story of my life - inside that locked room - filled with my secrets.

I want to hear Jesus saying to me, “Peace be with you.”

I want to hear Jesus breathing on me and saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive they are forgiven and those ones you’re holding on to - they are going to destroy you - if you won’t let go of them.”

I want to say, “If we take paper and pen - and looked at the whole story of our life - we could write down mistakes,  as well as being hurt  by  parents, or family members, or teachers, or other kids, or relationships that went sour - and they are wearing us down - for life.

Memories can itch.

Itching and irritating our memory on and off - all through our lives  - things we can’t forgive can be very painful.

And sometimes people become miserable with their hurts - to get back at those who hurt them - trying to make them feel guilty for making this person a PITA.


Today, this Sunday, let Jesus’ Divine Mercy heal you. Forgive those who hurt you or vice versa. 

Today, this Sunday, you’ll have doubts that forgiveness is possible.

Remember! If we have a memory, we’ll be remembering out past. The opposite is dementia.

So put your hands into Jesus cuts, into his mouth, hear him say from the cross - about those who have hurt us, “Father forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.” [Luke 23:34]

And hear Jesus say about the mistakes, sins, dumb things we’ve done in this life, “You can let go of those mistakes and use that holding onto mistakes energy - for doing better for and with each other. Amen.



[There are two types of Confession - Confession of Devotion and Necessary Confession. This second type has to do with  serious damaging self stuff - that  we need to do some life revision about - with God's help - as well as therapy at times. 

For example, a person with a serious addiction to pornography - can go to confession and ask Christ for help in the sacrament of reconciliation - and receive absolution. However, they might also need counseling help for an addiction.  

I have also heard theologians say that we need to have a World Wide Catholic Church Synod on the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I would recommend reading Chapter IX "Reconciliation" -  Pages 275 - 324 - of Joseph Martos's book, Doors to the Sacred, A Historical Introduction to Sacraments in the Catholic Church, 2001 edition. If really interested there are plenty of footnotes at the end of that chapter.]
April  23, 2017

Doubting Thomas - by Caravaggio


I doubt.
Therefore I am.

I better have doubts.
Is this water okay?
How old is this mayonnaise?
Does this medicine have side effects?
Who is this person hanging around
my daughter? What does he want?
Is this the best price?
Is there life on the other side of this?

I’m certain.
Therefore I am.

I have certainties.
This car is safe.
This horse can really run.
Home insurance is smart.
My wife loves me.
I trust this doctor.
The sun will come up tomorrow.
I believe. Therefore I have some certainty.

I am.
Therefore I think.

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Saturday, April 22, 2017


I discovered after writing the previous blog piece about clapping that some people have problems with clapping in church.

I had never heard of this before.

I was looking for a YouTube something on clapping in church - and surprise - there were YouTube pieces showing various folks criticizing people who suggest giving thanks to someone who made a contribution to the parish or what have you.

I was surprised. 

However, I didn't "Boo!" at them. 

Tempted, but no. I don't want to go there.

But I wondered, "Where have they been?"

I've seen all kinds of clapping situations at Mass and at church. 

Haven't they been to a wedding where folks clapped for the newly married?

Haven't they heard someone who just gave a great eulogy for a mom or a dad and there was a spontaneous applause?

I dare an anti-clapper to go, "Shush!" when that happens.

I've been here at St. Mary's and I've seen folks clap at a great sermon - and I've seen people becoming very quiet at a great sermon. I've seen Masses when the pastor or bishop congratulates the newly confirmed or newly coming into the Catholic Church and folks clapped for them.

So I would have problems with anyone who is against clapping. If they personally don't want to clap, don't clap.

Haven't they seen a tiny little kid under a year old clapping - and everyone loves the scene?

I remember seeing a documentary on dance and Agnes de Mille said that Blacks saw some Irish tap dancers who were not moving their arms - and they thought to themselves, "Hello! Start snapping those fingers, start moving those arms and start dancing - and add some clapping in the mix.   

Okay soccer players can't use their hands, but the goalie and American football players can use their hands.

"Hello" folks who are against clapping in church. Take a good look around.

Let me find a few of these YouTube videos that feature "againsters" and "forers" when it comes to clapping.

I noticed one uses Pope Benedict as a source for no clapping and then I spotted a video of people clapping for him.

Smile.  Loosen up everyone.