Monday, January 15, 2018



The title of my homily for this 2nd Monday in Ordinary Time is, “Prayer as Listening.”

People who want a deeper - wider - higher - richer - better - prayer life - soon find out prayer is difficult.

People who take time to pray soon find out they are poor - when it comes to trying to pray.

They realize they are distracted. They realize they look at their watch. They realize they stop praying. They realize prayer can be the pits.


If we see “Prayer as listening” - the title of my homily - we can get a glimpse at what is happening to us when it comes to prayer.

Start with listening to each other.  It’s a good education principle to go from the known to the unknown.

It’s difficult listening to people right in front of us - our kids, our spouse, our parents, our friends, those we work with.

Listening is difficult.

We don’t look another in the eye. We look at our watch. We judge the other - thinking inwardly, “Oh no not again. I heard this story, this speech, this complaint, over and over again.”

Another speaks. They tell a story about their grandkid or their vacation to Disneyworld. It triggers our vacations and our grandkids going to Salisbury University or Stanford or AACC - Anne Arundel Community College - and at their first breath - we see an opening and out comes our story.

Listening is difficult.

Now if it’s difficult to listen to another whom we can see visibly - how much more difficult it is to listen to God who is invisible?

That message, that learning, that reality is said loud and clear in the First Letter of John - who uses it in terms of love. In Chapter 4: 20 we can read, “Those who say, ‘I love God,’ and hate their brothers and sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen,  cannot love God whom they  have not seen.”

So if we can’t listen to others, or if we find it difficult to listen to another, how much more difficult it is to listen to God?

Listening is difficult.

Prayer is difficult.


Today’s First Reading from the first Book of Samuel continues the theme we heard in yesterday’s first reading from Samuel. It’s all about listening.

Prayer is all about saying to God. “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”

What a great way to begin any time of prayer, when you come here for Mass or you go to the Eucharistic Chapel - or you have a special  Prayer Chair in your house - just sit there and breathe, relax, and say, maybe with open hands, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”

Then listen.

Tom Green, the Jesuit, used to say, “Okay God, you got 5 minutes to say something. Then listen.” Then if God says nothing - or nothing you hear, read a psalm or Bible text or say a prayer, and then say again, “Speak Lord, I’m listening.”

Or have a journal note book. Put on the top of a blank page, “January 15, 2018. Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. What are my dreams for our world, our nation. Then think. Then pray. Then listen.”


Or listen to today’s gospel.  Read it. Think it. Pray it.

It talks about fasting for starters.

Maybe I have to see fasting in a new way. Fasting from talking. Fasting from TV. Fasting from dust. Fasting from laziness. Whatever.

Today’s gospel is about seeing a relationship with God as a marriage.

Maybe I need to listen better to my spouse. Ask him or her where they are on playing cards together  - walking together.

That last one. Right now it’s cold. But I heard at thanksgiving that two of my nieces - maybe more - have started the practice of taking nice walks with each other in the evening especially - after supper. They are all in their 50’s. I don’t know if it started with Margie and Jerry. Margie had cancer last year and she went through serious surgery and chemo or radiation. Ah - and I assume they realized time be limited. And my nieces all talk to each other.

The title of my homily is, “Prayer as Listening.”

If we listen to that first reading again, we might hear something that we didn’t hear the first time. I know I didn’t.  It’s a question. “Does the Lord so delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices  / as in obedience to the command of the Lord?”

Then Samuel says, “Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission than the fat of rams.”

There’s two hot button words: obedience and submission.  I know a married woman who writes to her church’s office when a certain reading is coming up from Saint Paul  - that they use  the shortened version of Paul’s letter telling women to be obedient to their husbands.

Well if we realized obedience is listening - and we ought to be both listening to each other - which can be a great sacrifice and fasting - then life would be so much sweeter for all  - and prayer life better as well.
January 15, 2018 

Thought for today:

“It will be generally admitted that Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is the most sublime noise that has ever penetrated into the ear of man.” 

E. M. Forster [1879-1970], Howard’s End (1910), Chapter 5


In the 60's I was too busy 
becoming and then working as a priest - 
so I really didn't hear this song.

In my 70's - I'm still too busy

but I'm starting to hear the words
of this song: "Blowing in the wind."

In the 18ths - that is 2018,

I'm getting that the Spirit, the Wind
of God is blowing in our face.

In this year of 2018, I'm feeling

Jesus' words about the Wind:
"the wind blows where it chooses...."

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2018
John 3:8: "The wind blows where
it chooses, and you hear the sound
of it, but you do not know where
it comes from or where it goes. So it 
is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."

Sunday, January 14, 2018



The title of my homily for this Second Sunday in the Year [B] is, “What Are You Looking For?”

That question is right there - in today’s gospel - Chapter 1 - the opening Chapter of the Gospel of John.

“What are you looking for?”

Is that the Number 1 life question?

I don’t know. What do you think? Is that the Number 1 question in life for you?

What am  I looking for?

When I was studying  philosophy in the seminary - our professor, Father Joseph  Colleran, - Ph. D. in Philosophy - who ended up doing great work here in Annapolis, working with the poor and the blacks, put on the blackboard, using white chalk - what he called the world’s shortest poem:


“Two words” and then he added, “and it rhymes”.


Is that the Number 1 life question?

I don’t know. What do you think?

I’ve thought about that existential poem at different times - as well as using it in sermons -  at various times. And sometimes I add:  “I have a poem that I have written. It’s also two words and the words also rhyme.


Is that the Number 1 life question?

I don’t know. What do you think?


The world is a store,

We walk in. We look around. Maybe we’ll find something we’re  looking for - something to buy.

Sometimes we like it when a salesperson standing there says, “Can I help you?” Sometimes we just want to browse.  Sometimes the salesperson asks, “What are you looking for?”

The world is Giant. It’s Home Depot. It’s Barnes and sometimes it’s Noble? It’s a Diner. It’s Sin Fronteras - without borders. It’s Mexican. It’s Chinese. It’s Italian. It’s French. It’s Sushi and it can be sloppy.  It’s an Amusement park. It’s Walmart. It’s a mom and pop shop.

What are we looking for?

The church is a place and space people walk into. Sometimes we like it when a salesperson standing there says, “Can I help you?” Sometimes we just want to browse.  Sometimes the salesperson asks, “What are you looking for?

This sales person is asking you today, “What are you looking for when you walked into church today? What are your expectations?”


Today and this weekend priests and ministers and preachers and Rabbis and Imams are wondering - well, of course,  not all - but a few I talked to - are wondering about what to say - if anything - about the other day.

If we say nothing, some will scream. If we say something, some will scream.

For the sake of transparency - I’m a Democrat. I know the United States demographics are around  40 something % one party, 40 something % another  party - and independents make up another 10  percent more or less - with an “It all depends” - all the time.

So if one says anything, you might have 40% glad you said something and 40% mad at what you said. And priests and preachers have often been warned of the Bully Pulpit - especially  when others haven’t got a chance to express their word or perspective back.  

I’ve heard someone say in this church of  St. John Neumann, “Of course, it’s a mortal sin to be a Democrat.” I heard that a few years back when they had a mike in the main aisle - and it was  the Q. and A. period for people to come up and ask questions or make comments about issues coming up for votes in the ballot box.

For the sake of transparency - I’m a priest - and I’m not stupid. I don’t want to get in the way of Jesus.   2017 in my opinion was a year of division - and I don’t want another year of division - especially in church and when we come to church. “Ooooh!”

So I am aware that some people will say, “I didn’t come to church to hear politics.”  Others will say, “I expected you to say something about what was said the other day.”

Do you have any expectations from the pulpit today?

I also took courses in propaganda and I know that politicians and public speakers are not trying to change people as much as to firm up their base.

As priest I would want to firm up Christ’s  base and his basic teachings - because I believe they are for the common good of the human race.


So today I’m choosing to say a few things. If something I say causes uproar, I’ll accept the consequences. If you want to write to the pope, bishop, pastor or me, go for it.

I also realize that even though someone says something is from a moral point of view - that doesn’t mean listeners will think it’s being said from a moral point of view.

I also read the book, Games People Play, by Eric Bern. There are many games being played. I have to be very aware of whether I’m playing a game here.

It’s my impression that the game I notice that people often play is, “Uproar!”

Is that game chosen to deflect people away from something else?

I don’t know.

What I want to say is the following:

I find it highly immoral to look at another’s country and call it an “outhouse.” I choose that word because I don’t want to say that other word.

I find it highly ignorant to make America look worse in the eyes of the world by insulting Haiti and Africa.

Today’s gospel has Andrew and another disciple of John watching Jesus walk by and John says, “Behold, the Lamb of God.”

That got Andrew and this other disciple of John to follow Jesus who turned and said, “What are you looking for?”

They then said to him, “Rabbi, Teacher, where are you staying?”

And Jesus says, “Come, and you will see.”

And the gospel of John tells us, “They went and saw where Jesus was staying and they stayed with him that day. It was about four in the afternoon.”

And Andrew found his brother Simon Peter and said, “We have found the Messiah - which is translated Christ.”

Then Andrew brought his brother Peter to Jesus.

My name is Andrew.

I like it that Andrew brought his brother to Jesus.

I like it that Andrew tells Peter about whom he found. This is the one we are looking for.  

What are you looking for?

Jesus asks all of us that question.

And hopefully all of us will ask Jesus, “Where are you staying?”

And Jesus says, “Come, and you will see?”


If we come to Jesus, we’ll see him hopefully. Where does he stay?

For starters, we’ll  find him first in a hut or cave or stable. And you know what is on the floor of a stable.

In our seminary, for 6 years I took care of horses - 3 horses, Alan, Rusty and Lady - so I know all about stables and the smell of stables and what to avoid stepping in.

It’s taken down now, but our stable at St. Mary’s and here at St. John Neumann’s didn’t stink, but the real one did.

And remember what word was used  last week in so and so’s comment or supposed comment about other people’s homes and homeland.

And Andrew in today’s gospel brings people to Jesus.

The gospel of John asks you, “What are you looking for?”

As priest I have figured out that my
- there’s that shortest poem again - is to bring people to Jesus.


is to ask you - especially in Church, “Who are you and what are you looking for?”

Today’s first reading from the first book of Samuel is a wakeup call.

The prophet Samuel says, “When the Lord wakes you up - and calls you, answer, “”Speak, for your servant is listening.”

Today’s second reading from First Corinthians has Paul asking us another question, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body.”

I think - just that - would be enough to realize the respect and beauty that every human being on the planet deserves.

Once more today’s gospel has Andrew bringing people to Christ - and Christ welcomes people - and then invites people to follow him - and Jesus then tells us about our within.

What does our within look like?

I use Matthew big time when it comes to this question. I apply  the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew right here - when Jesus describes his vision of what he was about.[Cf. Matthew 5 to 8 to read the whole Sermon on the Mount.]

I use Paul big time right here. I think this is what Paul discovered big time and preached big time. [Cf. Galatians 2: 20-21; Romans 8:9; Colossians 3: 16.]

Religion is not for show out there - but holiness within - wholeness within - and if we have Christ within us we’ll have the answer to the question from today’s gospel: “What are you looking for?”

Our within is not an enormous mansion, with a golf course, and with a tower. It’s an inner room - that yes has stink and you know what on its floor within - and Jesus wants to born in there - and grow in there.

And this call is for all.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says to us, “Stop being angry with each other.”

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says stop insulting your brother, stop calling your brother Raca. That’s an Aramaic insult.  [Cf. Matthew 5: 21-22.]

So all this name calling that has been going on. Stop it. Stop nick naming people, Little this or Lying that, Low Energy this or Sloppy that.  Boring this or Highly Overrated that.

Stop it. This is dangerous stuff. It hurts not only the ears of children - but adults and all of us. I don’t know about you, but I’ve gone the extra mile on all of this. I’ve turned the other cheek. Now I know I need to work more on forgiveness with all this stuff.


I preached on this at the 7 this morning. I got nervous when 2 people walked out during the sermon. I hope they were simply going to the bathroom - but they went out a door to the street. I felt funny when giving out communion and looking people in the eye. And at the end of Mass in the back I greeted all. One person said, “I didn’t come to church to hear this political stuff.” A couple of people said, “Thank you.”

I couldn’t say, “That was not my goal” My goal was to say, “Come to Jesus and have him ask you, ‘What are you looking for?’”
January 14, 2018 

Thought for today: 

“You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be someone who hates peaches.”

Dita  Von  Teese
January 14, 2018


She waited three years now
for her prom. Three years….
She glowed. Her gown was a wow
- the best on the floor. She flowed.
Woo. Could she dance? Then it was
over. For the next few years she felt
like the best Christmas ornament in
the box - but she ended up in the dark -
stuck in the attic - till next Christmas.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2018