Saturday, February 18, 2012
The title of my homily for this 6th Saturday in Ordinary Time is, “The Tongue.”
In today’s first reading from James 3: 1-10 - I see one more reason to say, “If you want to read the Bible, start with the Letter of James.” I like to say, “If you don’t get James, if you don’t feel challenged by the Letter of James, you won’t get stuff that’s not as clear as James.”
We all know what a match book looks like. Question: How many matches are there in one match book? Answer: The regular match book has 20 matches in it.
Next picture opening book of match book and seeing 20 red tongues.
Then realize that those 20 red tongues can start 20 fires - or more.
James says just that. The tongue can ruin someone - burn someone - hurt another big time.
James says that the fire of the tongue can cause as much damage as a fire.
The wrong word can burn another.
But don’t forget the paradox: the right word can heal another.
So this Letter of James can get us to meditate and reflect upon our own tongues - our own words - and the impact we make on one another - to build or to burn.
Agree or disagree? “In nine times out of ten, the slanderous tongue belongs to a disappointed person.” George Bancroft .
Agree or disagree? Do life’s two biggest regrets have to do with words: words spoken and words that we forgot to speak?
Agree or disagree: “The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.” Harriet Beecher Stowe
I know there are conversations I didn’t have with my dad - that I wished I had. How about you - what do you say to loved ones when you stand at their grave, see their photo, pick out their memorial card from your prayer book?
I know there are sermons and comments I made that I wish hadn’t made. I know there are sermons and comments I could have said in another way.
The human tongue is a powerful fire as James is telling us in this first reading today.
CONCLUSION: THE BODY MORNING PRAYER
Tongue: stick your tongue out of your teeth a tiny bit and bite it for a moment each morning and while biting it, say a prayer that you use your tongue well that day - that you say something that helps another and you say something that hurts another.
Ears: touch your ears for a moment each morning and ask the Lord that you might hear good stuff about people this day.
Eyes: touch your eyes for a moment each morning and ask the Lord that only see the good things people do for each other this day.
Hands: touch your hands for a moment each morning and ask the Lord that you reach out your hands to help someone this day.
Feet: touch your toes or tap your feet for a moment each morning and ask the Lord that you walk away from gossip this day instead of spreading bad news about others.
Mind: put your hand on top of your head for a moment each morning and pray that today you think good thoughts, plan good deeds, and good words come out of your mind and mouth. Amen.
February 18, 2012
Quote for Today - Eighteenth Day of Black History Month
the educational value
of doing well
what is done,
One thing well done
prepares the mind
to do the next thing better.
Not how much,
but how well,
should be the motto.
is of more value
than a score
Booker T. Washington [1856-1915]
On top 1940 Postage Stamp - Booker T. Washington
FAITH AND WORKS
The title of my homily for this 6th Friday in Ordinary Time is, “Faith and Works.”
Today’s first reading - James 2: 14-26 - is a famous text of the New Testament - and fro theological discussion it’s worth being aware of it.
It has triggered for some the great “Faith and Works” controversy.
Luther called this text of James “straw” - compared to Paul’s writings on faith in Jesus as our Savior.
BIBLICAL TEXTS AND CHURCH TEACHINGS
If one gets into theology, one gets into conflicts and controversy.
As I thought about the “Faith and Works” question, I tried to see what principles have worked for me. I thought to myself, “Could I put them into writing. Let me start with 3 principles.
1) A text out of context is a text out of context. When people start arguing religious questions, out of our mouths come Bible texts - which triggers other Bible texts. So some people then say, “A text out of context is a pretext.” I’m saying here: “A text our of context is a text our of context.” That should be less argumentative. So if someone is arguing with you - using Bible texts - smile. Offer them a glass of cold water if they come to your door or a cup of tea or coffee - if they are in your house. If they want to argue with you using Bible texts, best of luck. I would simply say, “Am I correct that your mind is made up on this?” If they say “Yes” then talk about the Ravens or the weather. If they continue with a Bible text simply say, “A text our of context is a text out of context.”
2) Outside the Bible there is light. If you’re a Catholic, you would know that we hold that there are sources of light outside the Bible. This does not mean that the Catholic Church is not Biblically based. It means that there are traditions and teachings, councils and creeds, some of which have risen out of conflicts amongst various Christians about meanings of words in the Bible etc. So Catholics hold up to the light both the Bible and the Bible in light of Traditions that arose afterwards, etc.
3) If minds are made up, minds are made up. If one person says the curtain is blue and the other person says it’s purple, why argue? If one person says President Obama is a secret Muslim, why argue? If someone says, “The Catholic Church is wrong on this!” and you see their hands are fists - and their face and whole skull is a fist, why argue?
SOME IF’S - BACK TO JAMES 2: 14-26
Now back to today’s text from James 2:14-26..
If Luther and various protestors thought that some Christians - united to Rome - thought that some people thought they were buying eternal salvation by a money donation, then Luther and others thought that was going on. And they protested.
If Catholic Church theologians thought and taught that Jesus is the one who saves us - not ourselves - they thought that - while not necessarily thinking the money thing.
If Jesus and Paul thought that some Jews were thinking that keeping the Law with all its tiny details - will keep us in God’s good graces - and save us - and in the meanwhile they are cruel to their parents or what have - using loopholes in the Law, Jesus and Paul disagreed with the Law saving us idea. [Cf. Mark 7: 1-13; Romans 7]
If James saw folks in his community not doing any work or making any effort for caring for the poor and the hungry or those who were freezing cold - and in the meanwhile they are saying they have faith in Jesus Christ, then he’s saying they have a misguided understanding of life and faith.
If Luther and others don’t think they have teachings, understandings, ideas, policies, theologies - about what Bible texts mean and don’t mean and these teachings and understandings are not in the Bible, but they believe come out of the Bible, they need to step back and realize that. If they won’t admit this, don’t argue. It isn’t worth it. One has to realize that reality. Protestant communities have teachings, their own popes, councils, theologies that are part of their tradition.
In the meanwhile, hopefully all Christians realize that Jesus is our Savior - and we can’t buy heaven - as well as an eternal life - our resurrection after we die. It’s totally out of our hands.
However, hopefully, in the meanwhile, we lose ourselves - die to ourselves - so we can help others rise - and lead a great healthy life, here - as well as hereafter.
Friday, February 17, 2012
Thursday, February 16, 2012
Today’s first reading [James 2:1-9] - the reading for this 6th Thursday in Ordinary Time - triggers the topic of partiality. 
Fill in the blank: I’m partial to _______________.
Starbucks, summers, butter almond ice cream, lacrosse, mornings ….
If I limited the blank to people, who would make our list?
Today’s first reading begins: “Show no partiality!”
James, the writer of today’s letter, spotted something that happens in many churches - many schools - many teams - many places of work: partiality.
In his church James must have seen someone come in with gold rings and things and fancy clothes - and the ushers said - or the leader said, “Come right up here Mr. Bo Jangles. We have a nice seat for you up front.” Then in comes a poor person with shabby clothes and he is told to “Stand back there!” or “Sit at my feet.”
You know the saying, “In the land of the blind, the one eyed person is king or queen.”
If we were all living in the land of the blind, how would we show partiality? Would it be by accent? Speech? The sound of our voice?
If we were all deaf, dumb and blind, how would we show partiality?
Would it be scent? Would it be touch? Weight? Height?
If you’ve watched Animal Channel you know about Alpha Males. You know how one animal takes over. So when we talk about animals, we talk about partiality.
If you’ve watched Discovery Channel you know about the dominant female monkey in a cage - the one who is queen - has shoulders thrown back - while the other female monkeys hunch a bit in submission.
If you read the Gospels you know all the sheep are important - even the lost one - the one out of communion with the rest. 
The title of my homily is, “I’m partial!”
Humans flaunt their looks, their wealthy, their gold, their marks, their cars, their athleticism, their talents - to show they are in the upper part of humanity.
Jesus didn’t like this separation stuff - this pedestal stuff - this non-communion stuff.
At times I hear people wanting to block communion - block union - in the community of churchgoers.
The follower of Jesus works on being open to all people - saints and sinners - who’s who? - being there for all people - serving all - washing feet - and greeting all - trying not to be partial or to show partiality.
God is not partial.
All are God’s creations.
For some it doesn’t seem to work that way.
Just listen to people. God is not fair. Life is not fair. Why am I so short?
Why does so and so have such and such?
Then there is paradox. The scriptures seem to say the poor are God’s favorites. The Psalm response for today is: “The Lord hears the cries of the poor!” 
The poor say, “You’re kidding God. You’re kidding.”
Then there are the paradoxes. Of course we are partial to the members of our own families.
Of course we are partial to our own kind.
Of course we are partial to those we’re comfortable with.
Of course we are partial to those our own age.
Of course we play the game. You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.
We know what our teachers want - what answers they want us to give - what behavior they want to see.
People do the same thing to each other all around the world. “Whatever you want boss!”
Hey it’s the Golden Rule isn’t it.
Yet the call - the message - the hope is still there: to be impartial.
The Christian reaches out to all people.
The Christian tries to learn the language and skills of reaching out to all people.
Jesus pushed this and look where it got him.
He says the cross is what’s going to happen in Jerusalem - and Peter takes Jesus aside and says, “Are you crazy?”
And Jesus - who chose Peter - who made Peter his key guy - who gave Peter the keys to the kingdom says to Peter: "Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do."
Keep on being part of Jesus - who brings us into communion with the Father and the Spirit. To abide - to travel with Jesus - to our Jerusalem - and we’ll be learning these things. It’s called “discipleship” - not a bad ship to be on.
 This was a homily for our St. Mary's High School young people this morning over at Marian Hall.
 Read Luke 15
 Read Psalm 34: 2-7
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Happy St Valentine’s Day!
Those who own Greeting Card Stores
or have a Greeting Card section in
a big store - St, Valentine’s Day is
a great day - for sales - for business for
“Come shop with me!”
How about those who sell chocolates?
What about flowers?
What about unmentionables?
Wait! And what about those tiny
big ticket items: jewelry?
What about restaurants and taking
your loved one out for dinner?
Happy St. Valentine’s Day!
Question: why in the world did
the Catholic Church back in 1969
“sort of drop” St. Valentine from
their roster of Saints - Saints with a
Capital “S”? The word on the street was
there was too much of “The Stuff of Legends”
when it came to saints like St. Valentine
and St. Christopher. If that was true,
what about the St. Patrick - whose life has
many wonderful legends and stories as well?
Smile! Just as March has St. Patrick’s Day,
so too February has St. Valentine’s Day
and people still have St. Christopher medals
in their cars and around their necks.
Isn't it wonderful that some things
can't be controled by those
who think they are in control? Smile.
Grab a piece of chocolate, say
a prayer to St. Christopher when you travel
and next month pick a shamrock
and wish your neighbor a field full
of God's blessings and a bit of blarney.
© Andy Costello, Reflections 2012
February 14, 2012
Quote for Today - Fourteenth Day of Black History Month
“I felt something impossible for me to explain in words. Then when they took her away, it hit me. I got scared all over again and began to feel giddy. Then it came to me -- I was a father.”
Nat King Cole
Monday, February 13, 2012
The title of my homily for this 6th Monday in Ordinary time is, “Signs.”
We know about signs.
We use signs. We need signs. We give signs. We understand signs. We misunderstand signs.
Confusing signs get us angry. Misinterpreted signs get us angry. Lack of signs get us angry. We want signs. We get lost without signs.
We hear about signs in today’s gospel.
Let me read the whole of today’s gospel once more - Mark 8: 11-13 - because if you’re like me, sometimes we don’t hear. We’re somewhere else, or we’ve been here before - or all this is déjà vu - and we're watching another movie.
The Pharisees came forward
and began to argue with Jesus,
seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him.
He sighed from the depth of his spirit and said,
"Why does this generation seek a sign?
Amen, I say to you,
no sign will be given to this generation."
Then he left them, got into the boat again,
and went off to the other shore.
To mix or mess up a metaphor or image, many people feel they are in the same boat as the Pharisees in today’s Gospel. They feel unsure because Jesus headed in another boat for another shore - leaving those on this sure or unsure or shore without any sign where he was going.
Having heard that I’m talking about signs in this homily, do you hear this gospel in a different light - this second time around?
TOMORROW IS ST. VALENTINE’S DAY
Tomorrow is St. Valentine’s Day - and people will be receiving signs of love. Many will be looking for signs of love and appreciation and recognition - and acknowledgement - wanting to hear from significant others, “I know you’re here in my life and I love and appreciate you.”
Say it with flowers, jewelry, a card, a word, a dinner, chocolates - preferably in the shape of a heart.
"Don't talk about love. Show me!"
So tomorrow is sign in day! However, on the other 364 days of the year - 365 this year - we the people will still be looking for signs of love.
This morning I’m heading out to the doctor’s office at 6:40 AM and a lady in the parking lot is coming towards St. Mary’s Church. I figure she’s heading for the 6:45 AM Mass. Nope. She says she’s from Mobile, Alabama and is looking for the kindergarten to meet some teachers. I’m not sure which building she’s really looking for. I bring her to the school and I meet Chuck Jr. and I say, “Which way to the Kindergarten?” He says, “Which one. They are in 4 different places.”
She was looking for a sign at 6:40 in the morning.
Aren't we all?
SIGNS FROM GOD
If you read the scriptures one discovers people want signs from God.
Is this is why people read the horoscopes?
Is this why we have various books of revelations - that keep appearing?
Is this why various people have left organized religion?
They aren't getting answers. Or the answers they get, they don't like. They want something else.
People want signs.
If you listen to the Gospel of Mark carefully, you’ll discover that Mark features this problem.
You'll hear about people wanting signs or they never get past the signs they are getting.
When signs don’t come - or the answer they want doesn't come - they go, “So long, God.”
If you know anything about Christ and Christianity, you know it's a religion of faith. It’s a religion of trust. It's a relationship - and a walking with others - sometimes in the dark.
If you know anything about other people, relationships are all about faith and trust.
Okay sometimes there are flowers from another - and sometimes one is overwhelmed by a field of flowers - or the birds of the air, and we know, "There is a God!"
Okay sometimes there are words - and sometimes one is overwhelmed with Jesus - the Word made flesh.
But most of the time it’s faith time. Most of the time it’s about trust - acts of trust that the Other is with us and loves us.
Sunday, February 12, 2012
[This is a story I wrote for today’s Family Mass in Marian Hall - the 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time B. I took a theme from today’s second reading from 1st Corinthians 10:31-11:1 where Paul talks about imitation - that one’s own life might benefit many. Then I took the example of Christ healing someone with leprosy. After finishing the story last night it hit me that this story might be over little kids heads. There wasn't enough time for another story so .... However, there are many parents at the Mass and the Religious Ed teachers after Mass might explain the story as an example if desirable. Amen.]
Once upon a time there was a medical doctor named Doctor George. He never went by his last name, because those who knew him were never that sure on just how to pronounce his last name: Kinderniskowski. [Spell out: K I N D E R N I S K O W S K I and then say, “Kinderniskowski.”]
When George was about eight years old his father was in a horrible accident. His dad was a welder of cars - turning regular limousines into stretch limousines. The company he worked for would take a regular big car - cut it in half - just behind the front seat - and then put in a middle section - and then weld the metal of the middle section to back and front of the car. In other words he helped make big cars become even bigger.
We see limousines at weddings and funerals and prom night - so George’s dad was one of the people who helped make them.
Luckily there was a burn unit in a hospital about 25 miles away and they got his dad there in time. But his dad needed a lot of healing and a lot of plastic surgery on his skin.
Sometimes accidents bring about nice surprises and sometimes surprises take a long time to happen.
Seeing his dad going through many skin operations on his face and arms and legs - healing that took a long time - hearing all about plastic surgeons - doctors who care for people with all kinds of skin and other problems - George slowly took on the dream of wanting to become a plastic surgeon himself when he grew up.
His dad recovered - getting back to the work he loved. His dad was glad every time he heard his son, George, say when old people asked him, “What are you going to be when you grow up, George?”
“I’m going to be a plastic surgeon doctor,” he’d answer.
George did it. He finished college - got into medical school - finished that - and then went on to become a plastic surgeon. His dad and mom lived to see all his graduations.
His father thought at times, “My son is doing the same thing as I’m doing. I’m working with cars and he’s working with people’s bodies.”
Fast forward 50 years and Doctor George Kinderniskowski - simply called by everyone, “Doctor George” was retiring. His mom and dad had died several years earlier.
There he was in a big hospital dining room at a retirement party - with his wife and four kids.
Doctor George thought it was going to be a nice small dinner - with about 25 people. Nope the room was filled with over 100 people - many of whom Doctor George had helped - especially 20 soldiers who had been burnt while serving in the military.
There were 3 speakers - and like the military people in the room - they were also complete surprises in being there - and they would give a speech thanking Doctor George for what he did for them.
Not everyone experiences such a moment. Teachers, waiters, waitresses, even moms and dads, sometimes wonder and worry about the big life question: “What have I done with my life?”
Doctor George found out that his life choice was a good life choice and that he made a difference in people’s lives.
The first speaker was a beautiful young woman of 32. She was a TV anchor woman on national TV. You’d see her sometimes on the Evening News.
She told everyone that when she was in the girl scouts they were at a camp and she was attacked, bitten and mauled by a bear. She told everyone that she found out later on that they weren’t sure she would live. She lived, recovered, but needed massive amounts of plastic surgery on her arms, her legs, her back and her face. Yes her face.
Everyone was looking carefully at that face - and couldn’t see a scar.
“This doctor is good,” she said.
She told everyone Doctor George not only fixed her up - but he wouldn’t let up till he had her perfect. It took years. It took a whole series of operations - but “Oooh la la,” she said - with a great twinkle in her eye, “he made me what I am today - with a TV camera on me all the time.”
The second person was a blind person - who was obviously born with serious bodily malformations. He also had Down Syndrome. He was a neat person. He had everyone laughing. He talked very childlike. He said, “Obviously I have never seen Doctor George - but I got to know him through his care for me - for his easy voice and kind words to me and got me all better.
This second speaker was short and sweet - and swept the people up off their feet to give him a standing ovation at this retirement party for Doctor George.
The third person was also a doctor - and also a plastic surgeon. His story was fascinating - because he said, “Doctor George worked on my hands for the longest time.” I had claws for hands. I was a birth defect. I was a mess. Kids bullied me. Kids made fun of me - calling me “Lobster boy!”
He continued, “Doctor George got me to be able to bowl and play lacrosse - in fact all sports. Doctor George inspired me to become a plastic surgeon just like he was.
Then he said, “I found out every year Doctor George would take a month off to go to Latin America or Africa or India to do work for free - especially for children - who were handicapped. They would round up - people who needed help - kids with cleft mouth - or kids having other facial defects. - and with permission of their families or guardians - George worked miracles on them.
He concluded, “I’ve been doing this myself with Doctor George now for the past 6 years because of Doctor George. He taught me to give back from what you got.”
Doctor George retired - but really didn’t retire. He spent the rest of his life still trying to help others - in any way he could.
This story is fiction. The only semblance of truth would be that I have met some people who have volunteered their medical expertise in Third World countries.