Monday, September 10, 2012



One evening, just sitting there
in a restaurant at a table
with 4 or 5 others,
I became all alone
after a dumb comment.

Self destruction silences me.

It can also ruin my meal.

It can also bring an insight,
a self revelation - a new knowledge
about me - about life - about others.

Cutting remarks - a caustic comment
like a steak knife scratching a white plate -
causes those around the table
to shrug shoulders and wince eyes. 

Dumb. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb me.
I don’t pause enough before I speak.
I have a MeTube collection of these
un-thought out spoken thoughts - long before
YouTube movies made their appearance.

Delete. Delete. Delete. But somehow
they won’t or don’t  or can’t disappear.

I sit there alone - at that table with 5 -
replaying some other moment in my life,
in some other restaurant 
where this same thing happened before. 
Why can’t these re-runs 
disappear so I can enjoy a meal 
and communion with my friends?

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2012


Once we get 
that we’re not God,
we got it. 
Once we go to God with that,
we’re in  - because then we know
we don’t know. Then we trust
that God knows and for now
hopefully that’s enough for us.
Relax! The big things
are out of our control.
Knowing that, isn't that a blessing?

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2012

    CAVE IN 

In  1879 or 1880 a 12 year old girl
brought her dad down into some prehistoric
caves in Spain - where there were
ancient drawings and paintings.

In 1940, four teenagers discovered
the ancient caves at Lascaux
in southwest France - which also had
pre-historic etchings and paintings.

In 1947, a Kid - a Bedouin shepherd boy
discovered the Dead Sea Scrolls
in a cave while looking for his  lost sheep.

Jesus said, “Unless you be like
little children, you will not discover
the kingdom of God.”

Jesus - carpenter and inner voice,
bring me down deep into my inner room -
better to go down deeper into my inner caves.

Together let us discover the images
and the handwriting on my walls.

What will we discover  there?
What are my secret secrets?
What are my Dead Sea Scrolls?
What are my paintings and pictures?

What are our deepest desires:
Envy, anger, lust? Or are the deepest
three: love, envy, comparisons?
Or is it the refusal to go within?

Or will I discover Risen Lord down there?
Is that the place you descended into
after your death to bring all of
us into resurrection and new life?

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2012

Picture on top: Cave drawing in Lascaux, France

            AT THE LAST PLANK

I paused before I stepped
onto the first plank of the pier.
I could see bird poop
on almost every plank.
I could also see lights
all along the way.
I could hear honking birds
wanting me to fly away,
disappear, get out of here.
I decided to step out and
start walking straight ahead
and see how far I would go.
Then I came to the place
where one needs to decide:
“Is this the time to cross
the waters to the other side?
Do I go back or do I wait?”

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2012

         THE ITCH

The itch to self destruct
is a very scary itch.
So when you get
the itch to self destruct,
don’t listen to the Nike
message about,
“Just Do It!”  Don’t do it.
Don’t scratch. Don’t itch.
It’s at these moments
you’ll know God is
in your temple,*
the Holy One of God,
and you’ll know God,
you’ll know God is
The Great Itch.

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2012

* Cf. Mark 1: 24


Quote for Today - September 21, 2012 

“On important missions, leave early enough to come back in time to pick up what you forgot.” 

Germain G. Glidden [1913-1999] 


Will be back home today - landing in Brooklyn, New York. What better place to land - at the place where one began.


Quote for Today - September 20, 2012 

“What a travesty to think religion means saving my little soul through my little good deeds and the rest of the world go hang.” 

Gerald Vann


Quote for Today - September 19, 2012 

"Music was my refuge.  I could crawl into the space between notes and curl my back to loneliness." 

Maya Angelou, Gather Together in My Name, 1974


Quote for Today - September 18, 2012 

“I have noticed that the people who are late are often so much jollier than the people who have to wait for them.”  

E. V. Lucas [1868-1938]


Quote for Today - September 17, 2012 

“The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” 

William James  [1842-1910]

Questions and a Comment:

When was the last time you told another you appreciated them in your life? Please describe the moment. 

When was the last time someone let you know by words or actions that they appreciated you?  Please describe the moment.

If you have a calendar that you mark up - I don't know if you can do this on one of those electronic gadgets - put a circle around a day - you let another know you appreciated them. 



The title of my homily for this 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time B is, “Choices, Convictions, Commitments: The Down Deep Unseen Stuff.”

The summer is almost over. People are back to school for a few weeks now. The weather in late September and October is usually cool and crisp. Except for an Indian Summer - it’s “feeling alive” weather from now till Thanksgiving. So it’s good thinking time. It’s a great time to be serious. It’s a good time to check out the stuff in our basement - the down deep stuff - the choices, the convictions, the commitments,  the central covenants of our life.


So today I want  to talk about the basic bedrock decisions and values that are me. Who am I when I’m alone? Who is the real me?  Check out the stuff below the surface - the stuff in the basement. What do I talk to myself about when I’m driving alone - or when I’m taking a shower or  when I am in prayer— when I am all alone with myself? Who am I? Where do I stand? What do I stand for? Not the me when I’m on stage. No: the back stage me. The me not too many know. The me that’s me when I’m lonely or thinking or wondering.


I remember watching an old movie - quite by chance. It was called, The Little Drummer Girl [1984]. I missed it when it came out in the theaters. It’s based on the 1983 book with the same name by John Le Carre. What hit me about the movie was how Diane Keaton was challenged, how she was pushed, right to the wall about herself, her very being.

It’s a spy movie - intrigue between the Israelis and the Palestinian Liberation Organization. Without knowing it or seeing it coming, Diane Keaton is recruited and goes deep into the PLO. She is pushed to her limits.  She is challenged about what she stands for - to plant a bomb to kill Israelis - in order to catch a Palestinian.

Some critics say the movie is implausible. Others say, “Okay, but it’s an tense gripping story.”

Whatever…. As I watched it, it got me thinking. Sometimes when watching a movie all alone, this happens. It got me to ask myself, “What are my beliefs and convictions? What do I stand for? What am I living for? What’s my life all about?”

At least 2 times in the movie Charlie (Diane Keaton) is challenged, “You don’t stand for anything. You’re all on the surface. You don’t know where you stand. You’re nothing. What do you want out of life?”

The questions felt real to me.


When I read today’s three readings, that movie moment came back to me. All 3 readings are very challenging. They yell at us to look at the stuff down deep inside of us — who we are and what we stand for.


Isaiah, courageously says, “Here I stand. I don’t back down. I hold my face up, even if they pluck or pull my beard and beat my back. I show my face.” Unlike people who are caught in a crime or a scam or a scandal, who hide their face, Isaiah says, “I am willing to go to court to prove my innocence, because God is with me.” Let God be my judge.


James also powerfully challenges anyone who is all talk and no action. He tells that he believes strongly in action and that that belief is the bedrock of his life. That belief underlies his life.

There are people who are all talk. They say to their neighbor when they are in need, “Best of luck, Charlie, hope you make it.” Or someone is cold, and they say, “Hey, I hope your mom and dad sends you a coat in the mail. Best of luck.”

If you are that way, you are all air. You’re nothing.

James says, Show me your faith without works  and I will show you not only the faith that underlies my life - but also the works that flow from that faith.


In today’s gospel Jesus asks, “Who do people say that I am?” They give answers.

Then he asks at point blank range,  “But who do you say that I am?”

Peter  impulsively bursts out with the words, “You are the Messiah. You are the one we are looking for.”

Then Peter, having gotten an A on this first test - riding on top of the waves - crashes.

Jesus tells Peter and the disciples what’s ahead: rejection and being killed. He adds resurrection after 3 days, but they don’t hear that. They hear the pain.

Peter takes Jesus aside and says, “Don’t go there!”

Jesus then blasts Peter with the words, “Get out of my sight, you Satan. You’re not thinking as God thinks.”

Then Jesus tells them how God thinks: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel will save it.”

Tough stuff. 


Here are 3 questions for some homework this week.

As I began, this is the time of the year that is good for the serious stuff - before the leaves start falling from the trees - when the apples are picked. Here’s some questions to think about when you are alone or when you are taking a shower. Here are 3 basic questions as a framework to clarify some life stuff.


The first question is the regular: “Who am I?” If you do this kind of stuff together in your marriage and/or family, ask different folks to write up who they think you are. Before the leaves fall from the trees, before you are buried in the ground, eulogies in the autumn of our lives are helpful.

When I gave high school retreats I used to ask young people to take ten small pieces of paper and write down 10 “I am” statements.

Then I’d ask young people to put the 10 in order of importance and then share one’s answers with one other person - preferably a friend - someone whom you know and have spent time with  - on the aside - and see where that takes you. Have the other do the same with you - and just listen to each other.

Then I read somewhere that 10 “I am” statements are not enough. 25 is much better. Somewhere around 18 people get very heavy.

I love to quote the shortest poem ever written. It’s called, “The Existential Poem.” It goes like this and it rhymes,



The second question is the, “Who are you?” question.

Make a list of the significant people in my life. Parents, friends, people I love. The other person in my marriage.

I once wrote the second shortest poem ever written. It also is two words and it too rhymes,


Who is the other person. You / Who? Hello! What makes you tick?

If you’re close and secure with another, you can try this.

Let’s talk!


The third and last question is to say to Jesus who he is to you.

Write out your answers and comments.

Suggestion:  begin with 25 who he is -  then narrow it down to 5, then to 3, and then to 1.

Then read today’s gospel again - Mark 8: 27-35 - and then relook at your answers about who Christ is to you. Amen. 


Quote for Today - September 16, 2012 

“A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.”

 Sir. Winston Churchill [1874-1965]


Quote for Today - September 15, 2012 

“Most people are bothered by those passages in Scripture which they cannot understand; but as for me, I always noticed that the passages in Scripture which trouble me most are those that I do understand.” 

Mark Twain [Samuel Langhorne Clemens – 1835-1910]


Quote for Today -  September 14,  2012  

“If I were wrong, I’d be the last person to admit it.” 



Quote for Today - September 13, 2012 

“You can always tell a well-informed person – their ideas are the same as your’s.” 



Quote for Today - September 12. 2012 

“An ounce of performance is worth a ton of excuses.” 



Quote for Today - September 11, 2012 

“Getting along with your wife is like passing a car on a narrow road - you both have to give.” 

Germain G. Glidden [1913-1999]  


Quote for Today - September 10. 2012  

“It’s all in the ear of the beholder.” 

Tom Hayden [1939- ], Boston Globe, September 24, 1979

Sunday, September 9, 2012



The title of my homily for this 23 Sunday in Ordinary Time B, comes from today’s Gospel, “Ephphatha! Be opened.”

As you know Mark tells us what the Aramaic word, “Ephphatha” means: “Be opened.”

Some people are deaf. Some people can’t speak. Some people are blocked. Some people are stuck. Some people are not free.

And Jesus says to all people, “Ephphatha! Be Opened!”

It’s the same message we hear from the Book of  Isaiah the prophet - whom we know Jesus read - clearly when he opened up the scriptures in the synagogue at Nazareth in his inaugural address.


The obvious thing everybody does is to want the other person to change - the other guy or gal to be open - and they don’t see the plank or log jam in their own eye - in their own person - in their own self - as Jesus pointed out.

We have our list of  people we want to see change. I am on some people’s list. You’re on some people’s list. We’re all on someone’s list.

And remember the line in the song in Gilbert and Sullivan’s Mikado, “I’ve got a little list…. I’ve got a little list - of society offenders - who never will be missed.”

And on our list  - under the name each of the persons we want to see change - we have a list of the things about them that we would like them to change. How they speak. How they don’t seem to hear. How they act or don’t act. How they behave.  To us, the other person is deaf or mute or dumb. They don’t listen. They don’t see. And when they speak, they are dumb - just plain stupid.

To get a lot out of the Gospel for today, we have to see that I am the deaf man with the speech impediment. It’s me. It’s not the other person. It’s me. And the prayer for today is to beg Jesus to heal me.

It’s the old message we have heard a dozen times, “Be aware when you point a finger at someone else, three fingers are pointing back at yourself.

And in the Gospel for today, Jesus takes the man off by himself - away from the crowd - and puts a finger into the man’s ear and then Jesus spits, touches the man’s tongue, looks up to heaven, groans, and says, “Ephphatha!” that is, “Be opened!”

And the man’s ears are opened and his speech impediment is removed and he speaks plainly.

Here I am Jesus. Stop! Do this for me! This is my prayer for today.


Once upon a time there was a kid - named Jack - who did dishes in a retreat house where I worked. He  was deaf as a wall. And when he spoke, he yelled difficult to understand garbled language. As a result, he was difficult to be with. He was avoided.

I have a life observation: strange rangers are avoided. The more they are avoided - the stranger they become. The stranger they become, the more they are avoided. And on and on and on. It’s a vicious circle.

In warm weather, when the basement windows to the retreat house  kitchen were open, you could hear Jack banging dish trays on the stainless steel table runway that led to  the dish washer - as well as hear him yelling - and yelling very loudly. He couldn’t hear himself, but we could.

People avoided him. People found him difficult.

In that same kitchen doing dishes, was his brother Danny who did not have those handicaps his brother had.

Whenever I read today’s gospel I think of Jack - the brother with the handicap. Did the man in the gospel have the same problems as Jack?

During my time there - two moments stand out with regards this kid.

The first moment was a high school retreat for girls. After lunch when they were having a break some of the girls looked in the open window down into the kitchen and spotted the two brothers doing the dishes. They had eyes only for Danny - no eyes for Jack. 

Unfortunately, Jack thought they were looking through the window at him and he told a few of us that he loved it - that the girls found him good looking and they were staring at him. His brother Danny said nothing.

After the two brothers finished the dishes  - and the kitchen staff put things away - sometimes they would gather outside if the weather was nice and sit on some benches and just chew the fat.

I noticed that Jack was always by himself - at least 15 to 20 yards away from the kitchen staff. His social skills were minus 10 to say the least.

I wasn’t listening to today’s readings that day. To be honest, it was much easier being with normal people - so that’s who I was standing with as a group of girls came up the macadam road towards us.  They spotted Danny - the hunk - the good looking brother. They went over to him to see him up close and personal. Hey it was a retreat without boys.

It was a crushing moment for Jack. He realized  the girls were not interested in him at all. I saw him slam his hand into a tree and he ran inside - down into the kitchen.

We had this old 91 year old priest. He loved to work on the lawns. Want to make it to 91, rake lawns. Keep moving. His nick name was Teddy. I spotted him about 100 yards away. So I went to Teddy and told him what happened to Jack - he had to turn up his hearing aid at first. He put his rake up against the tree and went down the steps to the kitchen basement to find Jack and talk to him. And that he did.

To me it was like Jesus going to the man in today’s gospel and healing him. Teddy and Jack could talk. I had noticed that - and it was good for both of them. Teddy brought a smile back to Jack’s face.

The second thing that happened to Jack was the operation. He went to a specialist in a hospital in New York City and they put some wires into his head  and he had to wear an electronic pack on his side. Slowly he learned to hear and translate basic sounds - and his face was amazing when he could hear sounds now - and he slowly learned to hear and to speak better.

Imagine being a doctor, imagine being a technician and you are able to get a person to hear and to speak for the first time. Imagine being a doctor and you help a person see for the first time because of  a new invention that has some kind of new breakthrough? Imagine being a speech therapist?

That’s the story of someone else - who was able to learn how to speak better and to hear a bit. What about me?


Today’s second reading brings this looking at self stuff into sharper focus. It’s from the Letter of James.

James writes about what he sees in his local community. 

What do we see in our community, our parish, our Mass - this 7 AM Sunday Mass - with it’s regulars - and with some strangers - where do we hear this second reading hitting home with an ouch.

James writes, “My brothers and sisters, show no partiality….”

I don’t know about you, but I’m guilty about partiality over and over and over again.

James tells us about his community - a man comes in with gold rings and fine clothes and a poor person in shabby clothes also comes in, don’t we all pay more attention to the rich man?

James says that we make distinctions about people. He says we judge.

He’s writing all this so that we can see that we can be closed to some people - because of their age, weight, color, clothes, accent, affiliations, mannerisms, you name it - James is challenging us to be open.

He’s saying to his community what Jesus said, “Ephphatha - Be opened.”


This week be open to one person you would ignore. Do it  because you heard today’s readings and you know Jesus is talking to you: Ephphatha: Be opened.”


Quote for Today  - September 9, 2012

"Be careful what you say before a wall,
as you cannot tell who may be behind it."

Sadi, Gulistan: Rules for Conduct, Number 12