Saturday, February 23, 2013


Quote for Today  - February 23,  2013

"Don't make yourself so big. You are not so small."

Jewish Prover

Friday, February 22, 2013



The title of today’s feast is: The Chair of Saint Peter - Apostle.

The title of my homily is, “The Pope and A Hope.”

As Catholics we hope for a good pope.

With a conclave to elect a new pope about to happen next month - our hope and prayer is that the cardinals pick a leader and a saint - to lead us for the next decade or what have you.

I would assume that most of us here have been alive for a whole series of popes in our lifetime: Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul  II, and Benedict XVI. Did I leave anyone out?


It’s nice to know who’s in charge - who’s the leader - who’s a focal point - who represents us to the world - and challenges us to be good Christians.

Please talk to each other about your takes on the different popes you’ve experienced in your lifetime. It’s a good breakfast or lunch or coffee break topic.  Right now a lot of people - not just Catholics - are wondering and taking about popes - and Catholics.

I hope and pray that those Catholics  who have dropped out - will drop into a Catholic Church - light a candle, say a prayer - and I hope a light goes on in their minds and hearts once again.


James O’Toole in his book The Faithful, A History of Catholics in America points out in his introduction that American Catholics define themselves in relation to the pope. In our history we’ve been attacked  for having allegiance to a foreign leader - the Pope - and in general we have not backed down. We have the American flag and the Vatican flag in our churches. Many people have pictures of the pope in their homes.

Around the world - and down through history - this has not always been the story. We’ve had some disasters as popes. We’ve had popes who were prisoners. We’ve had popes who have had no impact on Catholic lives.


Concerning the question of impact, let me go this way for a few moments. I liked Mitch Albom’s book, The 5 People You Meet in Heaven.

I say that because I assume heaven is one big chance to go meet all the people in the world - whom we never met - or had no idea how much they influenced our lives or we theirs - some of whom will have been  popes - but probably nothing like our 2nd grade teacher or a barber or hair dresser or a buddy who was next to us all through our time in the service or what have you.

I like Mitch Albom’s book The 5 People You Meet in Heaven - because it gives a better take on heaven than mansions and green fields, sheep and goats, ice cream and banquets.

In this book Mitch Albom tells the story of an 83 year old guy named Eddie - who was a maintenance man at an amusement park. When he was young he was optimistic. In his old age he became lonely, bored and filled with too many regrets.  Tragically he dies on his 83rd birthday trying to save a little girl from a falling cart.

He wakes up in heaven and discovers 5 people who help explain his earthy life and about the impact and change we have on each other.

The book sold over 12 million copies - in 35 languages.

I wonder how many of those 12 million and many more were changed by reading that book.


A thought for the day is to think about that. Who have we impacted? Whose life changed our life?

Here’s an exercise. Take a chair. Place it right there empty in front of us - we sitting in our favorite chair.

Put in that chair the different people in our life. Invite them to sit  their one by one. Mom. Dad. Brothers. Sisters. Friends. Teachers. If you have a piece of paper in hand - it would help to make a list - and put them in that chair one by one.

You don’t have to do this all at once. Do one person at a time.

This could lead to prayer. This could lead to gratitude. This could lead to forgiveness. This could lead to peace.

In today’s gospel Jesus asks his disciples and Peter, “Who do you say I am?”

Peter said, “You are the Christ the son of the Living God.”

Make sure you put Jesus in that chair in front of you.  And answer that question that Jesus asked his disciples.

And ask that question of all the people you put in that chair.

As to popes, I wouldn’t put any of them in that chair. I really don’t know any pope. I’ve read biographies of John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul II, but I’d have to say, “I don’t know them - like I know the priests in the rectory or the people in my family or in my life.

So maybe I’ll get to know them in heaven. I hope so - there’s no time limits to eternity.


The title of my homily is, "The Pope and A Hope."

What do I hope to see in a pope?  Being a Redemptorist, I would say what our founder, St. Alphonsus de Liguori, would say: practice loving Jesus Christ. I see that as Job # 1 for the pope.

Quote for Today - February 22, 2013

"A radical revolution, embracing even nature itself, was the fundamental idea of Jesus."

Joseph Ernest Renan [1823-1892]


What would you list as the 3 key fundamental ideas of Jesus. Then put them in order of their importance.

Thursday, February 21, 2013


Quote for Today - February 21,  2013

"Next to power without honor, the most dangerous thing in the world is power without humor."

Eric Sevareid [1912-1992]

Wednesday, February 20, 2013



The title of my homily  for this First Wednesday in Lent is, “Can People Change?”

I consider that question - “Can People Change?” - one of life’s biggest questions.  There are other big questions:
·        “Why do people self destruct?”
·        “Why suffering?”
·        “Why death now?”
·        “Why did this person love me and then stop   loving me?”
·        “Why do some people get it and others don’t?”

Those are some first draft questions. I’m sure on second draft, and twentieth draft, lots of thinking and rethinking, I’d have better big lifetime questions, but the clock was ticking and I had to come up with a homily for today.

I know however, my question for today, “Can People Change?”, would  be on every draft - because it’s a question I’ve been asking all my life.


Today’s readings trigger these thoughts - about this key question: “Can People Change”?

In today’s first reading from Jonah, we find out that the people of Nineveh changed. In the story of Jonah we know that he changed - but it wasn’t his doing. He was forced into being a preacher. He is called at times, “The Reluctant Prophet!” 

When God called him, he got in a boat and went the other way.

You know the story - and it’s an interesting story.

In today’s gospel we read about Jesus’ frustration with the people in his time - who want a sign - then perhaps they will change.

Jesus knew the human heart. Jesus knew people. Jesus knew that people work hard at coming up with excuses for not changing.


Can the person who is overweight, big time, change?

Can the person who is an alcoholic or drug addict change?

Can the person who is described as “always late” change their pattern and start to arrive 5 minutes early from now on?

Can the person who judges overweight people or people who are always late, change and stop judging.


AA and other 12 step programs tackle this question up front and very early on.

The first of the 12 steps is to admit our powerlessness over an addiction whatever the area it is in: food, alcohol, sex, drugs, gambling.


The key prayer in 12 step programs is a prayer developed by Reinhold Niebuhr - which you’re all familiar with. It’s called the Serenity Prayer. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”


If we follow Jesus, we know he  teaches us to start with self. So we have to stop wanting everyone else to change  - and look in the mirror and see ourselves. 

"Physician change yourself!"

Spot those specks and logs in our own eye first!

We need to admit our powerlessness - get help - and in the meanwhile change what we can change in ourselves - one day at a time.


Quote for Today - February 20, 2013

"There are two ways to slide easily through life: to believe everything or to doubt everything; both ways save us from thinking."

Alfred Korzybski [1879-1950]

Tuesday, February 19, 2013



The title of my homily for this First Tuesday in Lent  is, “Babble or Crystal Clear?”

I was looking for a word that would go well - and sound well - as the opposite of “babble” but couldn’t find one. So I chose two words as the opposite of babble - that is, crystal clear.

So the title of my short homily is, “Babble or Crystal Clear?” And I hope this homily will be crystal clear.


Today’s readings are crystal clear.

In the first reading from Isaiah 55: 10-11 we hear the Lord saying - that his word goes forth from his mouth and it gets results. It is not empty words. It’s like rain and snow and seed. They go forth and then bring forth wheat which becomes bread.

In today’s gospel from Matthew 6:17 Jesus talks about babble. He must have heard a lot of babble prayer in his time. Then Jesus gives a clear - a crystal clear - way to pray. Pray the Our Father. Don’t babble it. Pray for daily bread and daily forgiveness.


In the movie, My Cousin Vinny, which I love - having seen it or parts of it - at least 10 times - there is a scene when Vinny Gambini - who is a disaster as a lawyer up till  this scene says to Judge Chamberlain Haller about the prosecutor bringing in an automobile expert.

I object to this witness being called at this time. We've been given no prior notice he'd testify. No discovery of any tests he's conducted or reports he's prepared. And as the court is aware, the defense is entitled to advance notice of any witness who will testify, particularly to those who will give scientific evidence, so that we can properly prepare for cross-examination, as well as to give the defense an opportunity to have the witness's reports reviewed by a defense expert, who might then be in a position to contradict the veracity of his conclusions.

Vinny had been studying all night and the prosecutor had told him this  right he had as defense lawyer as well. Judge Haller is totally surprised and says, Mr. Gambini? …. That is a lucid, intelligent, well thought-out objection.

Vinny says, “Thank you, Your Honor.

Then the Judge says, “Overruled.”

What hits people seeing the movie is Judge Chamberlain Haller’s statement: “That is a lucid, intelligent, well thought-out objection.”  Up till then Vinny - in his first case as a lawyer - is totally a confused disaster.

The second movie scene is another court room scene. It’s in the movie A Few Good Men - when Jack Nicholson as Colonel Nathan R. Jessep says to the young lawyer, Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee, “We follow orders, son. We follow orders or people die. It’s that simple. Are we clear?” 

Tom Cruise as Kaffee says, “Yes, sir.” 

Colonel Jessep barks out again, “Are we clear?”

Kaffee says, “Crystal.”


Both those movie scenes came to mind when I thought about the crystal clear message found in today’s readings. It would be wonderful if our prayers and our forgiveness of others - were crystal clear - lucid - intelligent - and well thought out - and not babble. 

If it’s all  babble, perhaps we really didn’t pray or we really didn’t down deep forgive the other. But if it’s lucid and crystal clear - then we can trust there will be results coming out of our prayer - and results of our forgiving another person - just as rain and snow and seed bring forth daily bread to our world. Amen.


Quote for Today - February 19, 2013

"The camel never sees its own hump; but its neighbor's hump is ever before its eyes."

Arab Proverb

Monday, February 18, 2013



The title of my homily for this First Monday in Lent is, “Holiness: Spell It Out For Me!”

Today’s first reading begins this way: “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Speak to the whole Israelite community and tell them: Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.'”

God is saying, “Tell the folks to be holy!”

If Moses stopped there we might ask, “Okay, now tell me how to be holy? Spell it out for me.” Or we might say, “For example. Give me some examples on how to be holy.” Or we might say, “That’s like telling kids when we’re going out for the evening and leaving them home alone, ‘Be good.’”

Too vague. Give me a list of do’s and don’ts. Maybe one specific could be a good Lenten Resolution.


Surprise today’s readings spell it out for us. Today’s readings give a list of do’s and a list of don’ts. Let me make that my homily.


Don’t steal.
Don’t lie.
Don’t speak falsely to another.
Don’t swear falsely using my name.
Don’t defraud.
Don’t rob your neighbor.
Don’t withhold overnight the wages of your day laborer.
Don’t curse the deaf.
Don’t put a stumbling block in front of the blind.
Don’t  act dishonestly in rendering judgment.
Don’t show  partiality to the weak nor deference to the mighty
Don’t go about spreading slander among your kin.
Don’t stand by idly when your neighbor's life is at stake.
Don’t bear hatred for your brother in your heart.
Don’t incur sin because of him – even if you have correct him or her.
Don’t take revenge or cherish a grudge against your fellow countrymen.


Judge others justly
You shall love your neighbor as yourself
Feed the hungry.
Give the thirsty something to drink.
Welcome the stranger.
Clothe the naked.
Care for the sick.
Visit those in prison.


There they are.

We all know the KISS principle in public speaking. Keep It Simple Stupid.

If you want the above lists on how to be holy to be even more simple here are some shorter versions - but notice they move to the general - compared to the specifics mentioned above:

       “Love one another.”
       “Keep the Golden Rule.”
       “Be a sheep; don’t be a goat.”
       “Cause heaven; don’t cause hell!”
       "Do good; avoid evil."
       "Build; don't destroy!"
       "Cause happiness; not hate!"


It was the 100th ballot and still there was no pope.

The Las Vegas and London betting establishments had long given up on just what ballot the white smoke would billow out of the small pipe on the roof of the Vatican - indicating, “Habemus papam!”

The well over 100 Cardinals could not break the deadlock. There were at least 10 horses in the race and nobody would budge ballot after ballot.

Finally after the 100th ballot and still no pope, someone said, “Why not ask the Church what they want - because it seems we are not in agreement on what and who we want.”

At that, someone said, “You’re kidding! We never did that before!”

At that someone off to the side said, “Well it took us 700 years for another pope to step down and retire.”

“Well,” the first someone said, “Why don’t we put out a questionnaire and ask people to list 10 "must" qualifications they would like to see in a pope?”

Surprise! That’s what they did. Instead of white smoke indicating “Habemus papam!” out came a “We have a questionnaire!”

In the meanwhile the more than 100 cardinals took a 2 week break - no press allowed - no politicking allowed - no lobbying allowed. They were exhausted and some of these men were old men.

In came responses - millions and millions and millions of responses and suggestions - from all over the world - in all the languages of the world. Catholics are everywhere.

Seminarians and Sisters in Rome - under strict secrecy - were asked to sit there - open up the envelopes and put the enclosed questionnaires in piles of 100 - based on language only.

The suggestions - the recommendations -  were interesting, different, surprising, enlightening, and definitely a unique way of doing this.

The cardinals came back and spent three weeks reading and discussing these “must” qualifications from all over the world. Then it happened. They came up with a pope on the 101st ballot.

The qualifications sheets were all shredded - but there was a leak. It happens every time. 

The last pope’s former butler - who was new to the job - discovered in a top drawer - in one of the rooms - a short list of qualifications  that some cardinal must have jotted down from the various lists. Why? We don’t know. Some of them had circles around them - some had notes like “You’re kidding!” Some had exclamation points and question marks. Some had stars. One had an "Uh oh!" on it.

This list got out. Someone screamed for an investigation. The new pope, who was not going to have a butler or a maid, calmly said, "Relax!"

So here's the list that some think one cardinal simply jotted down from lots of different lists:

·        Must be under 64 years of age.

·        Must be from a second or third world country.

·        Must have shopped in a grocery store or supermarket at least 37 times in their life.

·        Must come from a large family.

·        Must know the luminous mysteries of the Rosary.

·        Must be married.

·        Must declare for the next 2000 years the church will only have women priests and God will be called “She” - to see how women will do with the church compared to what men did for the past 2000 years.

·        Must know 15 parables of Jesus by heart - can explain the story in one’s own words - and how it has worked out in one's life.

·        Must have a sense of humor.

·        Must put an end to all the hats - and expensive pageantry type garments for liturgy and worship.

·        Must speak at least 2 languages.

·        Must know and have talked to someone who has a family member who is gay, someone who has committed suicide, someone who has had an abortion.

·        Must have taught religious education to kids under 10 years of age.

·        Must have been a leader in a labor union, or at a school, parish, or neighborhood.

·        Must be a good listener

  •     Must have skills in compromising, building solidarity, and consultation.

·        Must be someone who when receiving complaints about someone’s theology or outlook on life - that complaint be sent back to the complainer or if no signature - shred it. If there is a signature and address, then ask both parties, "Do they want to sit down together and hear each other’s stories?"

·        Come up with new ways of selecting the pope and bishops - maybe eliminating cardinals - or what have you.

·        Must call a new World Council that will be held in a 3rd World Country - and the whole Church is to be involved in the process. This council will have to address how to better help the poor of the world - abuse in all its forms - peace efforts - marriage improvements - how to encourage having more children over more stuff - greater dialogue with all religions and with people of no religion - the shortage of nuns, brothers and priests - and the many creative ways to build up the Body of Christ.

So on the 101st Ballot - white smoke arose from the small chimney in the Vatican.

The small crowd  in St. Peter’s Square - mostly press - were surprised when they saw the smoke.

They began yelling, “Habemus papam” into their cell phones - and to each other. Then - as they saw who the new pope was - their chant switched to “Habemus mama! Habemus mama!” 

Our new pope was a woman.  She was a 56 year old widow and grandmother from Paraguay in South America. She spoke Spanish, Guarani and some Portuguese. She raised 8 children - had 36 grand kids - and had worked as a community organizer in her small city in Paraguay. And as Pope or Mother she kept her own name - her baptismal name.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2013

Quote for Today - February 18, 2013

"When you visualised a man or a woman carefully, you could always begin to feel pity ... That was a quality God's image carried with it ... When you saw the lines at the corners of the eyes, the shape of the mouth, how the hair grew, it was impossible to hate.  Hate was just a failure of imagination."

Graham Greene [1904-1991]

Sunday, February 17, 2013



The title of my homily for this First Sunday in Lent, Year C, is, “40 Days”.

For some reason, 40 is one of those numbers one hears in various religions. It generally stands for a period of learning and growth.

When mentioned, it’s usually either 40 days or 40 years.


In the New American Bible, the one we use at Mass, the number 40 appears 109 times.

Noah was out there on the waters - for 40 days and 40 nights - of rain and storm - and cleansing - and a fresh start.

The Israelites came out of Egypt and wandered in the desert for 40 years.  It was also  a period of cleansing -  preparing them for the Promised Land - for the land of milk and honey that we heard about in today’s first reading.

Moses was up in the mountains with God two times for 40 days of prayer and communion.

Goliath - the Giant - strutted and taunted the Israelite army for 40 days before David went out with a sling shot and killed him.

Elijah the prophet took a 40 day journey - an escape - to Mount Horeb - where he experiences God.

Jonah the Prophet finally went to the city of Nineveh and proclaimed 40 days of penance and repentance - otherwise their city would be destroyed.

Jesus goes into the desert for 40 days as we heard in today’s gospel.

Lent is traditionally described as 40 days.


Years ago I discovered the Persian poet Rumi [1207-1273]. Dropping Rumi's name could get an "Aha!" From time to time I’d notice the mention of another Persian poet Hafiz [c,1320-1389] with Rumi's name.

So last year when I spotted a copy of Daniel Ladinisky’s book, A Year with Hafiz - Daily Contemplations. It's in English. It gives 365 short - one page or half a page or even shorter poems of Hafiz. I scooped it up. It provided intriguing, interesting pieces to ponder and pierce.

When I started thinking about the number 40, I remembered that in the introduction to Hafiz’s life and poetry, Daniel Ladinsky points out the significance of the number 40 in Hafiz’s life. 

When he was a young man - he was working as an assistant to a baker. One day he was delivering bread to a mansion. He notices this beautiful young lady. She didn’t spot him. With one glance he was in love. He began writing love poem after love poem about her. It seems she never knew was interested in him. His poems became very popular - and made him famous. He didn’t notice any of that. He was still totally stuck on this gal.

To try to win her he began a very difficult Sufi spiritual practice that called for him to keep vigil for 40 nights at the grave of a Muslim saint. He worked all day in the bakery and stayed at the grave every night - trying not to  sleep - praying and hoping to win this girl.

As the story goes, “on the fortieth day, the Archangel Gabriel, appeared to Hafiz and told him to ask for anything he wished.”

“Hafiz had never seen such a glorious, radiant being as Gabriel.”

He began thinking, “If God’s messenger is so beautiful, how much more beautiful God must  be!”

As the story goes, “At that Hafiz forgot all about the girl and said to Gabriel, 'I want God!'”

That’s when the angel Gabriel directed Hafiz to a spiritual director and he began a 40 year search for God.

His Sufi Muslim teacher or master was Muhammad Attar.

Attar was a tyrant - a tough, tough teacher - who made life “hell on earth” as Hafiz described it  - “day after day, year after year, for forty long years.”

Poetry was very much part of Sufi spirituality. For 40 years Hafiz wrote love poem after love poem about how he saw God and love in creation and in human beings. These poems became a rich part of Persian and Eastern literature down through the centuries.

After  40 years - Hafiz now well over 60 years of age - complained to his teacher, Muhammad Attar, “Look at me! I’m old, my wife and son are long dead. What have I gained by being your obedient disciple for all these years?”

Attar his teacher and master said, “Be patient and one day you will know.”

Hafiz shouted, “I knew I would get that answer from you.”

That’s how these stories go.

What to do? Once more - as in the beginning - he went on a final 40 day search for God - and answers.

Well, at the end of this period of 40 days, Attar gives him a cup of wine and he experiences a "God-Relization" and "Cosmic-Consciousness". He was flooded, drowned, overwhelmed and swept into the love of God. He experienced deep union with God for the rest of his life.

LENT 2013

We have begun Lent 2013.

At the end of these 40 days will we be any different than today?

Go for it. Go for God -  the God of love.

You know the Lenten practices: prayer, fasting, almsgiving.

Find your desert place: a walk each early morning or each evening with God. Designate a chair in a quiet place in your place as your prayer chair. Close your eyes. Be in the presence of God. Have one of those Lenten meditation booklets next to your chair or a rosary. Use it for Hair Mary’s or say on the 59 beads,  “Here I am Lord!” or “Where are You, Lord?”  or “Help!” or “Thanks!”

Have your Bible sitting there. Pick a passage. 

Put the words on your lips and then let them sink into your heart as today’s second reading puts it. [Cf. Romans 10:8-13]

Be careful when it comes to scriptures. Remember the old saying, “The devil can quote the bible.” That saying comes from today’s gospel.[Luke 4:1-13]


Lent it’s 40 days. I can be the same me at Easter or I can change a lot or a bit - these 40 days. It's a grace time to discover the God of love in everyday life.

Let me close with three short poems by Hafiz:


In a vision I heard this clearly whispered:

Study those who sing the most,
but are free of criticism or praise.

Following that advice, things turned out
just as I suspected.

I started spending more time with birds.


Wine is like the Lord Jesus;
it can bring the dead to life.


Everyone is really God speaking.
Why not be polite and listen to
the Old Guy?

+++++   X  ++++++++ = 40

Book: Daniel Ladinsky, A Year With Hafiz, Daily Contemplations, Penguin Books, London, 2010

Quote for Today - February 17, 2013


All day long you do this, and then 

even in your sleep .... pan for gold.

We are looking to find something

to celebrate with great enthusiasm,

wanting all our battles and toil

and our life to make sense.

"I found it, I found it, I found it!"

a hermit once began to shout,
after having spent years
in solitude, meditating,

"Where?" a young shepherd boy

nearby asked, "Where?"

And the hermit replied,

"It may take a while,
but I will show you.
For now, just sit near to me."

All day long we do this with our movements 

and our thoughts ... pan for gold.

Hafiz [c. 1320-1389], in Daniel Ladinsky, A Year With Hafiz, Penguin Books, page 40