Saturday, December 22, 2012



The title of my homily for December 22, is, “Write Your Own Magnificat!”

Most of us would respond: “You mean my ‘Insignficat?’”

I’m suggesting taking some time and write at least that - and then looking deeper  into one’s life, write one’s “Significat” - and bringing God into the picture, make it one’s Magnificat.


In today’s first reading from 1st Book of Samuel 1: 24-28, we have the story of Hannah. She goes to the temple of the Lord in Shiloh and makes a presentation to the Lord of her son. Then in the Psalm response - notice it’s not a psalm today - we have Hannah’s magnificat prayer to God - from the beginning of Chapter 2 of Samuel.

In today’s gospel from Luke 1: 46-56, we have Mary’s Magnificat , which we are more familiar with.


The thought hit me, “Write Your Own Magnificat!”

The first step would be to go through Hannah’s and then Mary’s magnificat and then ask, “Could I say this of myself?”

Could I say, “I’m giving myself to the Lord”?

Could I say, “My heart exults in the Lord”?

Could I say,  “My soul magnifies the Lord!”?

Could I say, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord!”?

Could I say, “The Lord has done great things for me”?

Could I say, “There are times I fear the Lord”?

Could I say, “I realize that the hungry, the poor, the empty, the lowly are seen by God as the rich ones”?

Could I say, “When I look at my life I realize God has remembered to me his promise of mercy”?


The title of my homily is, “Write Your Own Magnificat!”

My first draft would go something like this:

My soul magnifies  the goodness of the Lord  ---- sometimes.

My soul minimizes the goodness of the Lord  ---- sometimes.

The almighty has done great things for me: good family, good friends - great life so far. Thank You God for helping me to understand Chesterton’s words, “People are the million masks of God.”

The almighty has fed me with his bread when I was hungry and at times I was unaware of these riches - and so I walked away feeling I was empty.  Sorry God.

When I’m filled with myself, I sound so empty ---- sometimes.

When I’m poor or with the poor, I realize my riches ---- sometimes.

When I was proud he knocked me off my throne - scattering me till I admitted my conceit ---- sometimes.

When I realized I was his servant he came to my aid and in doing this I remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our ancestors.

When I’m stinking like a stable, You, Lord Jesus are born in the midst of my messes, so my soul does magnify the Lord ---- sometimes.

So Lord  help me to be like Mary and bring you to our world ---- all the time. Amen.


Quote for Today - December 22, 2012

"In every decade we instruct Christ as to what He was and is, instead of allowing ourselves to be instructed by Him."

Amos N. Wilder [1895-1993], Theology and Modern Literature, [1958}

Book cover of a book about Thornton and Amos Wilder - brothers from a very fascinating family. Check them out on line!

Friday, December 21, 2012


The cow chewing her cud ….
The sheep eating her hay ….
The donkey resting after
that long journey from Nazareth ….
looking at the baby born of Mary,
not knowing her grand-donkey
will carry this same child
into Jerusalem some 33 years
from now - and into the lives
of billions of people to come.
Oh my God, you’re calling me
to be a donkey - to carry Jesus to
others. Oh come let us adore him.
O come let us adore him:
Christ the Lord. Amen.

© Andy Costello, Reflection 2012


          Watching and waiting 
                   for you, Lord Jesus,
          watching and waiting
                   for you in prayer.

          Jesus, you are the beginning
                   and the end of my everything. 
          You touch my life from A to Z.
          You are the Alpha and the Omega.
          You are the center around which
                   my life keeps spinning
                   from birth till death:
                   my Bethlehem to my Calvary.

          Watching and waiting
                   for you, Lord Jesus,
          watching and waiting
                   for you in prayer.
          Jesus, you stand there
                   on the shore of my life,
          calling me to drop everything,
                   and follow you.
          You are still the Story Teller,
                   telling me about the Kingdom.
          You are still the Healer,
                   ready to heal me
                   of bad memories and of my mistakes.
          You are still the Lover,
                   standing on the lake shore of my death,
                   ready to feed me,
                   ready to love me,
                   ready to bring me into eternity.

© Andy Costello, Prayers for Markings, December 1991

Quote for Today  - December 21, 2012

"What a sea 
Of melting ice I walk on!"

Philip Massinger [1583-1646], The Maid of Honour, [1632], a Tragicomedy in 5 acts.

Comment: At some point in our life, we need to look at the foundations of our life - what we stand for - what our life is built on. We need to name our present platform. We ought to then name our dream platform - whether it's justice for all, listening, family, God, leaving the earth better than we found it or what have you.  We need to ask: "Am I standing on a sea of melting ice?"

Thursday, December 20, 2012


“Ero Cras!”
“Ero” - Latin future tense
for “I will be”.
“Cras” - Latin word
for “tomorrow”.
it's Latin phrase for
“I will be there tomorrow.”

Wait a minute!
Are you saying
the world is going to end
tomorrow, December 21, 2012?

No - I’m saying that Christ
will come again today, 
tomorrow and again 
and again and then at the End.

An acrostic, an acronym -
each letter standing for
the first letter of a Latin word
describing “Christ”.

Way back before they
had TV and techy stuff,
that had time to write
things like “O Come,
O Come, Emmanuel” -
listing 7 titles for Jesus - 
with those 7 letters in Latin 
of “ERO CRAS.”

E -  Emmanuel - Jesus God is with us.
R -  Rex - Jesus is King of the Gentiles.
O - Oriens - Jesus is Orient - the morning light.
C - Clavis Jesus is the Key.
R - Radix - Jesus is the Root of Jesse.
A - Adonai - Jesus is Leader.  
S - Sapientia - Jesus is Wisdom.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2012

Quote for Today - December 20,  2012

"God is an unutterable sigh, planted in the depths of the soul."

"Gott ist ein unaussprechlichter Seufzer, im Grunde der Seele gelegen."

Johann Paul Friedrich Richter [1763-1825] - German Romantic writer

Painting on top: Johann Paul Friedrich Richter

Check out 2 Corinthians 5: 1-5.  Then check out Romans 8: 26-27.  Johan's father was am organist who became a pastor. Did he hear his dad preach from these texts?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


“The Lord be with you!”
Isn’t that a sweet blessing?
We say it at Mass - but not
on the street - yet I have
heard grandmothers saying,
“God be with you on your
way back to college. Drive
carefully now. Drive carefully!”
And I heard someone singing
in the parking lot on their way
to their car after Mass, “O come.
o come, Emmanuel.” It was one
of those many simple graces
that God gives at times - simply
to show: “The Lord is with us!”

© Andy Costello Reflections, 2012

Quote for Today - December 19, 2012

"A decent provision for the poor is the true test of civilization."

Samuel Johnson, Boswell's Life of, 1772

Tuesday, December 18, 2012



This will be a short homily for December 18th  - because it’s going to complicated and confusing. The topic is Jesus as God - and Jesus as equal with the Holy Spirit to and with the Father. How could anyone explain the Trinity? We find it difficult to explain ourselves and our relationships with each other.

The title of my homily is, “Consubstantial.”

Last year - for the First Sunday of Advent -  the Nicean Creed which is the usual Creed for Sunday Mass - changed in its wording from “one in being with the Father” to “consubstantial with the Father.”

Some in the Church didn’t think “one in being with the Father” was an exact translation from the Latin text’s words “consubstantialem Patri” - which is a translation from the original Greek text of the Nicene Creed of the year 325. The Greek word that early church leaders and theologians came up with was “homoousios”. The first part of the word - that is, “homo” - means “same”. The second part of that word “ousia” means in English “being” or “essence” - but when you translate that second word “ousia” into Latin with the word “substantia” you have grabbed a word that has material overtones as well.  When we say “substance” we think stuff.  The new translators want us to think “being” or “essence”.

All these words have long, long, long, long histories.

It took the Catholic Church - East and West - till the year 325 at the Council of Nicea to develop and then declare Christ is one with the Father - one in being with the Father - of the same Substance of the Father. In other words, Jesus is God.

Further councils stressed the equality of the Holy Spirit in this Trinity.

Further councils stressed the humanity as well as the divinity of Christ.


Today’s gospel text from Matthew 1: 18-25 was written before 110 A.D. and probably around 80 to 90 A.D. It  is key in all the arguments for the next 300 to 500 years.  Matthew is very clear in pointing out that Mary become pregnant by the Holy Spirit - without Joseph.

But Matthew wants to continue stressing as he did with yesterday’s genealogy that Jesus is of the lineage of David and that comes through David - to Joseph - who adopts - or takes on very courageously the calling that Mary had received from God.


So those who translated the creed into English in the 1970’s - chose “one in Being with the Father.”  Those who did the new translation chose “consubstantial” - substantial having a different meaning than our word “substantial” - and the different documents that came out said for us to try to explain all this. 

Each time we have the creed at Mass - like Sundays - we can use the Nicean or the Apostles creed. I’ve done both - sometimes to avoid the word "consubstantial".  

However, the Apostles Creed has the phrase, “he descended into hell” and that doesn’t mean “hell” the way we understand “hell”. It’s into the deeper areas after death where all the dead are pictured. I’m sure that confuses people as well. At least that’s what I believe.  Enough already. 

What was he talking about?


Quote for Today - December 18, 2012

"If you want to be miserable, HATE someone."



Do you agree with that statement about hatred?

Have you ever hated anyone?  What happened next?

Have you ever unhated?  How did that icy fence come down between you and the other?

Monday, December 17, 2012


Quote for Today - December 17, 2012

"We are always attracted to the edges of what we are, out by the edges where it's a little raw and nervy."

E.L. Doctorow, in the Los Angeles Times, April 5, 1989



If we stop being attracted to the edges of what we are, does that mean we're dying?

Who can better tell us what we are: ourselves or others?

If we can name what we are like, name what is a little raw and nervy?


Mohawk Men Working on a Skyscraper - found on line.

Sunday, December 16, 2012


How does it happen when we die?
Do we all move in a crowd towards God?
Thomas Merton pictured crowds of people
like prisoners or displaced people being
moved from station to station from far
countries - all those people who died this
night from all around the world. He
pictured Hemingway - walking that walk -
shuffling those steps - after he shot himself.
How does it happen? What happens next?
Do all these little kids crowd
around Adam Lanza and hold him till he
lets go of whatever it was that killed him
and them. I don’t know how all this
horrible stuff happens. Like everyone
I don’t know how someone could kill a child
or anyone else, including themselves.
How does it happen? How, God, how?

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2012


Now for the first time on the night of your death
your name is mentioned in convents, ne cadas in

Now with a true bell your story becomes final. 
Now men in monasteries, men of requiems,
familiar with the dead, include you in their offices.

You just stand anonymous among thousands, 
waiting in the dark at great stations 
on the edge of countries known to prayer alone, 
where fires are not merciless, we hope, 
and not without end.

You pass briefly through our midst. 
Your books and writings 
have not been consulted. 
Our prayers are pro defuncto N.

Yet some look up, as though 
among a crowd of prisoners
or displaced persons, they recognized 
a friend once known in a far country. 
For these the sun also rose 
after a forgotten war 
upon an idiom you made great. 
They have not forgotten you. 
In their silence you are still famous, 
no ritual shade.

How slowly this bell tolls in a monastery tower 
for a whole age, and for the quick death 
of an unready self!

For with one shot the whole hunt is ended!

- Thomas Merton ©



The title of my homily is, “Joys and Sorrows.”

The title was just “Joy” - till the news out of Connecticut on Friday.


This Sunday we celebrate Joyful Sunday - Gaudete Sunday - the half way point in Advent.

We heard in the first two readings and the Psalm  the theme of joy and rejoicing, giving thanks. We also heard the theme of motive for rejoicing: it’s new life - change - and we heard this especially in today’s gospel -  with the preaching of John the Baptist - to various groups.

This morning a question: On a scale of 1 to 10 am I a joyful person? 

I think I’m usually a 9 or a 10 on that. So I think I am a joyful person.

However, others have a voice, a vote, about that vote. They have to deal with me. Each of us experiences each of us.

Everyone has to ask at times: “When I walk into a room, do I get a ‘Yes’ - an ‘Oh good’ vote or an ‘Oh no!’ vote?”

That’s an “Uh oh!” if I get an “Oh no!” vote.

And if I give myself an, “Oh no” vote when it comes to being a joyful person - being a person who  brings joy to the world - when, where and how can I change?


I like to say that everyone has the following experience I once had. I’m playing stickball as a kid on 62nd Street in Brooklyn, New York and the pink Spaldeen ball goes into the man up the streets front yard. He’s sitting on the stoop. He won’t let us get it. He’s a grouch. What happened? I’m standing there watching him yelling at us kids and I say to myself, “I don’t want to be like that when I grow up.”

Each of us has to ask, “Have I?”  I think everyone has that kind of an experience and I hope everyone chooses to be a joyful person. Have I?


I saw A Christmas Carol again Friday night put on by the Colonial Players of Annapolis - up at the Colonial Players theater on East Street.  Once more there were lots of little kids there. Did any one of those kids consciously or unconsciously decide, “I don’t want to be like Scrooge  when I grow up.” Once more I had to look at myself and ask: “Have I become a Scrooge?”

As I looked around the theater - before the play - which they put on every other Christmas -  I noticed lots of little kids. It’s an every other Christmas event for some families. This time it was extra significant - because I noticed all the little kids there.  It was just like these kinds of kids who were killed on Friday in Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Connecticut. A prayer, “Oh my God, no!”

I was doing what millions of Americans were doing - aware of little kids a lot more - since the shooting. Last evening I got an e-mail from a friend of mine in Ohio. She wrote, “Today - Saturday -  I went with Marilyn and her family - including her 3 year old granddaughter Phoebe - to see the Toledo Ballet/Symphony perform ‘The Nutcracker’. Most of the dancers were professionals, but they did incorporate around 20 children dancers from the Toledo area. It was delightful. I enjoyed it so much. But, a few times, when the young children were dancing, I thought of the little ones who lost their lives yesterday in Connecticut, and the tears began again.”

Life like the rosary beads has the sorrowful mysteries along with the joyful ones. I prefer joy.


We come to Sunday Mass and in our moments here - 50 to 60 minutes -  we do what the Sunday morning talk shows do. We look back on our week and we look forward to a new week.

How was your last week? What would it sound like to each other on a Sunday morning talk show? What are your hopes for this week - 9 days before Christmas?

To practice what I preach, I looked back on last week.  

Last Sunday night we went out to dinner - Date night - as a community to Adam’s Ribs. We toasted Father Blas who was leaving on Tuesday morning for home - for Paraguay - to celebrate his 25th Anniversary a priest. Nice. It was joyful. He was looking forward to seeing his brother Gustavo who was recovering from cancer. That was sorrowful.  We find out when the bill came, someone paid for it. Woo. Thankful. Nice.

I was on duty - and no calls came when we were in the restaurant. Good. The Giants had won that day. It was joyful.  I was rooting for the Ravens to beat the Redskins - which would help the Giants. It wasn’t meant to be. I learned long ago not to let sports results dominate my spirit. I made that decision when the Baltimore Colts beat the New York Giants way, way back, in 1958 - in Sudden Death - 23-17. Bummer. I was stuck in a convent that day in Scranton, Pennsylvania visiting my sister Peggy a nun. And there was a TV set in the big room we were sitting along with lots of families. Bummer. I didn’t find out they lost till we got back home to Brooklyn. That got to me. Somewhere along the line I said, “I won’t let that sap my spirit like that ever again.”

I got a call to the hospital that night - a lady was dying of cancer. I anointed her and I prayed with her for her - along with her family. She said, “I’m ready!”  Translation: I’m ready to go home to God. It was a sorrowful moment for me - triggering more sorrow than joy.  Each of us is our own translator of life’s moments.

Early Monday morning I got another call to get to the hospital - a baby was dead - stillborn. The duty guy is on till 8 AM. This was 6:35 AM. That was a sorrowful mystery. Why God? Why? 33 weeks old. We prayed. I baptized the little girl Alexa - and prayed with and for her parents - and grandmother. A sorrowful - sorrowful mystery.

I found out when I got back from the hospital last Monday morning that Father Blas had just found out that his brother Gustavo had died. Ugh. That was a sorrowful mystery. What would that be like planning on flying home on Tuesday morning to celebrate - and to see one’s family - and to find out on Monday morning - one’s brother had died.

I had Mass with the whole St. Mary’s high school on Wednesday.  It was a wonderful Mass. The psychic energy - was calm and mellow. Sometimes the kids seem so elsewhere. Sometimes they seem noisy and upsetty. Last Wednesday morning it was a joyful - prayerful Mass. Mystery. Mystery. Mystery.

Thursday morning I was at the School of the Incarnation for the Sacrament of Reconciliation - confessions. They had lined up 8 priests - so that made it easier to hear all those confessions. The kids come face to face. The kid walks over to one of the priests who is sitting there and the kid sits. We begin with a greeting and a sign of the cross. Kids sins are mentioned and a penance is given. I usually ask the kid to do something nice for mom or dad or brother or sister. Then there is the pardon and absolution prayer and Go in Peace.

I think this way of confession is much better than we were kids - going into the box and sometimes making up numbers and sins. I like it that a little kid has the experience of talking to an adult for a moment and you can see their face picturing moments - usually at home - talking back to parents, skipping homework, fighting with siblings - Amazing they use a word like “sibling”. I never had siblings when I was a kid. I had a brother and 2 sisters.

A thought hits me. I see a kid’s face. Is this the kid for life? A smile? A worry? Joyful? Sorrowful? What will become of this child? I pray that the kid has a great life. Since they are mentioning a moment when they did a negative, a so called “sin”, I like to ask, “What are you good at? A sport? A subject in school? Soccer. Social studies. Music. Lacrosse.

I drive back to St. Mary’s after a second session with the kids after lunch and get back just before school gets out: a joyful moment.

Friday I turn the radio on while driving back from the 12:10 Mass and hear the first sounds for me - about the horror in Connecticut.

People will want us clergy to pray for the kids and the folks up there and parents and teachers everywhere.  People will want us to say something that helps. Uh oh!

Translation: will they be angry when we say, “Horrible. Don’t know what to say. Scary? Terrible”?

I see the last name of the killer. Sounds Catholic. Always wish that our faith would challenge and help us not to make such horrible decisions - do such horrible actions.

Want to know motive - like the rest of people.

Want to say: presidents cry. I cry. God cries?

Could say: there is evil in life - in people.

Could say: there is sickness in people - craziness - mixed upness.

Could say: there is sorrow in people - as well as joy.

Could ask: does Christmas really mean - Christ’s Mass - and does each Mass - or at least Christmas Mass have any impact on the lives of those who are there?

Could say: Joy is the echo of God within us - as someone put it.

Could ask: if that is true, does sorrow mean, God is absent - from the minds and hearts of some people?

Yes at times. That night in the garden and that afternoon on the cross Jesus screamed, “My God, my God, why have your forsaken me.”

Felt some joy last night when that priest, Monsignor Robert Weiss up there in Newtown or close by spoke some words that this is horrible and we just need to be with each other in moments like this.

Recalled one of my lifetime learnings: “Teach thy tongue to say, ‘I do not know.”

As someone said on TV last night: at a moment like this, some people need words - some people need silence. What do you need? If it’s silence, take some good walks this week. If you need words, talk and listen to each other. Communion with Christ doesn’t just mean 5 minutes here in church on Sunday morning.


Christmas is coming. It’s going to be different in the lives of a lot of people this year because of this tragedy.

Christmas comes every year - and every year we sing, “Joy to the World the Lord Has Come.”

And Jesus keeps coming into a world where are plenty of moments of sorrow and moments of joy - and hopefully most of us choose to be people who bring joy to our world - at home - at work - at school - on the roads.

Each week - each day - we have lots of experiences - and it’s our choice to bring joy, light, hope, a good word to that experience.

Each newspaper has good news and bad - its  announcements of births and deaths, victories and defeats, ads and arrests, cartoons and crossword puzzles - along with Sudoku.

Our move. Of course tragedies kill us. Ugh. Every death is our death. As John Donne [1572-1631] the preacher and poet said, “Every time that bell tolls it tolls, don’t ask for whom? It tolls for thee.”  We are all related toe each other. We are all God’s children. We are all sisters and brothers - siblings. Hopefully, we will be resurrection, hope and joy to others as well. Hopefully we hear Jesus’ call to us to “Go into the whole world and bring Good News to others. Amen.”


Quote for Today - December 16, 2012

"I wonder why love is so often equated with joy when it is everything else as well. Devastation, balm, obsession, granting and receiving excessive value, and losing it again. It is recognition, often of what you are not but might be. It sears and it heals. It is beyond pity and above law. It can seem like truth."

Florida Scott-Maxwell, The Measure of My Days [1972]