Saturday, March 23, 2013


Palm Sunday….
Sometimes we understand it….
Sometimes we don’t understand it.
Why didn’t Jesus simply get out of Jerusalem
and head back home to Nazareth and the carpenter shop
and avoid this horrible week of suffering and mystery?

Palm Sunday ….
Sometimes we understand it.
We know the feeling.
We know the story.
We too have had our Palm Sunday celebrations
and then we took a turn and that leads to a twist and another turn
and we find ourselves in the middle of Good Friday
and we’re making our Way of the Cross to Calvary.

Palm Sunday isn’t too far away from Good Friday.

The first day on the new job,
a great job,
all kinds of congratulations
all the welcomes and best wishes
and then the day we’re fired or cut
and nobody said or says anything.
Heads are down. Eyes looking elsewhere.

The team wins the championship, the trophy.
Palms up. The high fives.
The banquets and the pictures in the paper
And then the following season, disaster.

Palm Sunday to Good Friday.
We’ve been there.

The day we walked our daughter down the aisle
And then the morning phone call,
“It’s all over dad.
It’s all over.”
“But what about the kids?”
“It’s all over dad.
The tears, too many beers,
or too much silence or selfishness or blindness.

Palm Sunday to Good Friday.
We’ve been there.

Life. Mom and dad’s 50th Wedding Anniversary
and then later, the problems, incontinence, cancer, loneliness, the coffin.

Palm Sunday to Good Friday.

The days we were riding high and the day we felt like a stupid donkey.

Palm Sunday to Good Friday.

Thank God Jesus didn’t go the other way.

Thank God Holy Thursday is in between.
He washed our feet.
He fed us with the finest wheat.

And thank God for Easter.
A new Beginning.
A new Spring.

Easter is always after Good Friday, every time.

Quote for Today: March 23, 2013

"Even the seasons
form a great circle in their changing,
and always come back again
to where they were.
Our life is a circle
from childhood to childhood
and so it is in everything
where power moves.
Our tepees were round
like a nests of birds,
and these were always
set in a circle,
the nation's hoop."

Black Elk [1863-1950]
in Black Elk Speaks, 
Being the Life Story of a Holy Man
of the Oglala Sioux, as told through
John G. Neihardt [1961]

Picture - Native Americans praying in a circle.

Friday, March 22, 2013



It’s a circle. It’s a spiral,
It’s a series of scenes:
the new and the old.
It’s life. It’s déjà vu.
I’ve been here before,
but some of this is new
and some of this is old -
and so - I’ve been told to STOP -
to SEE - to SMELL  the flowers;
To LISTEN - to HEAR the music
of the trees, the waters and
the streets. Everything and
everyone is giving me glimpses
of how it all goes, how it all flows.
Winter - death - cold brown leaves
and naked trees - crosses against
the western sky. Spring - resurrection -
budding leaves - on crosses, the trees
bringing new life - seen early morning
against an eastern sky. Lord, I guess
when I don’t see some of this I’m dead. 
So Lord, cry and then scream - 
scream outside my tomb:
“Wake up! Come back to life!"

Andy Costello © Reflections 2013


Drums and flutes -
the basic sounds
down deep in our bodies.
The drum beat of our heart
sending red blood - rushing red blood
back and forth - up and down through
the flute of our arteries and veins -
down deep and all around and around
sounds in our bodies. It’s connecting us
with all the earth and all the oceans -
the lakes and rivers of our bodies
and our planet and its peoples.
We don’t need a stereoscope,
microscope or telescope to see -
to feel - to listen to the ALL.
Prayer: to close one’s eyes,
to feel one’s pulse - to connect
with one’s body - being with this great
circle called our Mother Earth,
from which we came and
to which we’re going. This is
our story….  Listen! Listen! Listen!
Drums and flutes ….
It’s connecting us day after day,
page after page, sound after sound
beat after beat, story after story
with the story and sounds of everyone.

Andy Costello © Reflections 2013

Quote for Today - March 22,   2013

"Everything an Indian does
is in a circle,
and that is because
the power of the world
always works in circles, 
and everything tries to be round.
In the old days
when we were a strong
and happy people,
all our power came to us
from the sacred hoop of the nation,
and so long as the hoop
was unbroken the people flourished."

Black Elk [1863-1950] in Black Elk Speaks, 
the Life Story of a Holy Man
of the Ogalala Sioux, as told
through John G. Neihardt [1961]

Painting: "Circle of Life" 

Thursday, March 21, 2013


Quote for Today  - March 21, 2013

"I don't like work - no man does - but I like what is in the work - the chance to find yourself. Your own reality - for yourself, not for others - what no other man can ever know."

Joseph Conrad [1857-1924] in The Heart of  Darkness [1902]

Comment: I disagree. There are some jobs that I enjoy - and I've learned from them - usually looking back.  How about you?  Yet Joseph Conrad does raise a question for me: "Which jobs do I learn the most from? Jobs I like or jobs I don't like?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Quote for Today - March 20, 2013

"The bonds that unite another person to ourself exist only in our mind. Memory as it grows fainter relaxes them, and notwithstanding the illusion by which we would fain be cheated and with which, our of love, friendship, politeness, deference, duty, we cheat other people, we exist alone.  Man is the creature that cannot emerge from himself, that knows his fellows only in himself; when he asserts the contrary, he is lying."

Marcel Proust [1871-1922] in Remembrance of Things Past [1913-1926]. The Sweet Cheat Gone



The title of my homily for this feast of St. Joseph is, “Stuck?  Have a Problem? See I Am Doing Something New.”

The “See I Am Doing Something New” is a statement. It’s a Bible text. It’s Isaiah 43: 19. It was in last Sunday’s first reading, Isaiah 43: 16-21. However, I have some regrets that I didn’t preach on it. In fact, I felt guilty not even referring to the First Reading. It was because of that text and because it had some good stuff in it. I also noticed  the first reader in both Masses that I had,  read the text very well.

I preached on the Gospel mainly - the story of the woman they wanted to stone to death - because they caught her committing adultery - and they were using her to try to catch Jesus.

And Jesus did something new - he challenged the scribes and the Pharisees to police themselves - instead of policing others - to look at their within - instead of meddling in the life of another. A few women pointed out after Mass that the gospel doesn’t mention the guy she was caught with.

Then, even though I didn’t preach on the Isaiah statement about “See I Am Doing Something New!”, I felt stuck because that text has been on my mind.


In that first reading from last Sunday’s, Isaiah was speaking to people caught in slavery - exiled up to Babylon. He wanted to give them new hope. So he pointed out an image - which was an opening - a way - out of their trap, He told them their exit from their Exile could be like the Exodus of their ancestors from slavery in Egypt. He gave them images of water in the desert - rivers in the wasteland - so they too could escape and get back to the land of milk and honey - the Promised Land.


That was Sunday. Today is Tuesday, March 19th, the feast of St. Joseph - and there are different readings. Thinking about some different things that are happening today, I saw a way out of that feeling of being stuck about  something that hit me for Sunday, I saw  an opening to re-look at that theme and bring it to the forefront. It was like spotting a spring in a desert wasteland.

Today in Rome the new pope gets is officially blessed at a public Mass as pope - even though he’s an old man.

People ask priests, “What’s your take on the new pope?”

My first take is a hesitation: we’ll see.

My second take is positive:

·        I consider it good news that Benedict showed us that a pope can retire. That is a breath of fresh air.

·        I consider it good news that this new guy is not from Europe, that he’s a religious, that he took the bus with the boys - instead of the limo, that he seems more down to earth, that he seems more simple than elaborate.

·        I see it as good news that he took the name Francis and wants the church to get down to its primary vision of concern for the poor - as Jesus said in his inaugural address - quoting Isaiah - I sense the vision that Francis of Assisi had. Francis’ vision was the voice from God, “Rebuild my church!”  If there is anything the church needs to do, it’s right there.

My third take is my dream that he’ll cut down on hats and the rich frilly vestments and all that - and get about the real business of Christ.

So today March 19th, he’s prayed over and officially blessed as our new pope. I never liked the word “installed”.


Today March 19th, is also the feast day of St. Joseph. I like the dream theme in today’s gospel - that Joseph is stuck - in a dilemma. His wife to be is pregnant - and she could be stoned to death for this. And yet he dreams big and takes her as his wife - and Jesus comes into our world saying over and over again the message, “See I make all things new.”

MARCH 19, 1863

The title of my homily is, “Stuck? Have a Problem? See, I Am Doing Something New!”

On this day - in this church - the Redemptorists who were rather new to Annapolis - building this church and big rectory - were rather stuck. It was Civil War time. Father Seelos and our provincial were worried about our students being drafted, so they brought Archbishop Kendrick down from Baltimore and ordained 20 students to the sub-diaconate today, the diaconate tomorrow, and the priesthood on March 21. According to Robert Worden’s book on St. Mary’s Church in Annapolis, Maryland, “It was the largest number of men ever ordained at one time in the United States up to that time.” Cf. page 59.] It was a creative way out of the dilemma.


In this homily, I pointed out a few ways people got out of being stuck - and coming up with a new solution. Let me ask a few questions.

Are we stuck in some problem and we don’t know how to get out of it? Have we asked for help?  Are we stuck in the old? What new book have we read lately? Are we telling each other the same old stories?  What have we in our plans for some creative new adventures into Washington D.C. or Harper’s Ferry or what or where have you?  Have we thought of writing our life - looking at what has happened - so that we find ourselves opening up to some new happenings?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


Quote for Today - March 19, 2013

"I compare human life to a large mansion of many apartments, two of which I can only describe, the doors of the rest being as yet shut upon me."

John Keats [1795-1821] in a Letter to John Hamilton Reynolds [May 3, 1818]

Monday, March 18, 2013


Quote for Today - March 18, 2013

"There is not a fiercer hell than the failure in a great object."

John Keats [1795-1821], Endymion [1818], preface.

Question: Is this true for you? How's your marriage going? How's your life going? These are heaven and hell questions here and hereafter. Eh?

Sunday, March 17, 2013



The title of my homily for this 5th Sunday in Lent [c] is, “In the Temple Area.”

Today’s Gospel - the story of the Woman Caught in Adultery - is one of the best known stories in the Gospels. We all know - we’ve all thought - we’ve all said Jesus’ famous words: “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”

It triggers for some the old joke that someone throws a stone and Jesus says, “Mother!” That’s an important joke because it means that we know the Catholic teaching that Mary is without sin. It also fits the principle that a joke should have surprise - and it does - because we know Mary wouldn’t do such a thing - but we do.

It’s also good that it has been embedded in our heads not to throw stones - not to judge - because we are with sin. We’ve all made mistakes - and the older we are - the more we’ve made - and the more mistakes and sins we’ve done,  the more we should understand the little nuance in today’s gospel story. The text says, “… they went away one by one, beginning with the elders.”

The older we get, the more we look backwards. The more we look backwards, the more we see the sins and stupidities of our lives. The more we see the sins and stupidities of our past - especially the sins of omission - the broken promises and unfinished love - the more we should understand others - and stop throwing stones at them.

It’s interesting that today’s gospel from John 8:1-11 is not in most of the oldest Gospel manuscripts. This gives scholars a chance to come up with theories why not - and why it made its way into the Gospel of John. Some think it’s such a radical thought - that we dare not tell me not to throw stones at women - and we know it’s still done today - with words and rocks.

Lucky for us this story about Jesus has been preserved for us - to challenge us - to get us to read in the scriptures one of Jesus’ major insights: the reality of the inner life and inner thoughts inside our skull - and how they are behind our actions.

We don’t know what Jesus wrote on the ground that day, but we do know what John - Matthew, Mark and Luke wrote - to preserve in writing for us the sayings and stories of  and about Jesus.


To understand today’s gospel as well as the Four Gospels - as well as the whole Bible - the Jewish and Christian Scriptures - we have to know the centrality of the temple in the life of Israel.

If you go to Israel, if you go to Jerusalem, you have to go to the Western Wall - the Wailing Wall - and you stand there and pray - and think and watch - and experience something powerful. You stand there and put notes in the cracks - a few prayers - some hopes and messages to God. It’s not part of the old Temple. It’s part of the platform on which the temple was built.

If you go to the Bible you know how important it was to have a temple - a central gathering place - to experience each other - to experience God - to experience each other as a people of God.

If we go into our own minds - into our own way of seeing and understanding life - those of us in church here today - we know how important and central it is to have a church - our local church. We live around here, in some house - in some neighborhood - and we need a Sunday place to gather and worship and be with each other and be with our Father.

I see this significantly many Friday evenings at wedding rehearsals when people stand in the back of this church for the first time. I see folks with amazed faces. I see them surprised at the beauty of  this old 1858 Gothic Church called “St. Mary’s”. It hits them down deep somewhere in their being. I sense them getting the importance of sacred places called churches - temples - synagogues - mosques - cathedrals - basilicas.

I remember driving out to St. John Neumann Church for a 12:10 weekday Mass - a few years back. It was an ordinary day. As I was getting out of my car I saw two families getting out of two different cars and heading for the church as well. I was a bit early - which is rare for me - and I said to myself, “I’ve never seen these people before. I wonder what’s up.”

So I caught up with them and said sort of carefully, “Is everything okay?”  And probably an older brother said, “Our dad is dying and we need to say a prayer.”

So there is something needy and something sacred and something central about sacred places like churches.

And when we drop away - or drop out - when we’re worried -  then when we experience these sacred landmarks  - they trigger serious and sacred and challenging thoughts.

I like to walk in the afternoon - especially through the Naval Academy - along the water. It’s good to see teams practicing and to see young people running and exercising. It makes me walk faster - to fight aging. While walking there and walking back, it has hit me a thousand times the reason for church steeples. St. Mary’s tall useless steeple - probably costing millions in the long run for upkeep and maintenance - since 1858 - with the golden colored cross on top - glittering from the sun from different angles - depending on the time of day and the place of the sun - it sends off deep unconscious thoughts and feelings of the sacred. It’s lit at night - as well - and folks have told us that the lights were out for a while - especially folks coming over the bridge down below over Spa Creek.

I’ve done a lot of preaching in a lot of places - as well as a lot of traveling - and everywhere one goes - one sees sacred places. I’ve seen beautiful churches and ugly ones - but like family members they are ours. And from time to time people gather together for the big and small moments - of life in places called “churches” and “temples”.

And when we are alone and when we are together there are a lot of things going on inside our minds. And a lot of things outside our minds trigger a lot of things going on inside our heads. And that’s one of the things we do when we see churches and holy places - and when we are in holy places.

The title of my homily is, “In the Temple Area.”


Today’s gospel begins, “Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.  But early in the morning he arrived again in the temple area, and all the people started coming to him, and he sat down and taught them.”

It’s at that moment that the scribes and the Pharisees bring the woman caught in adultery and they want to nail him and stone her.

This morning I’d like to jump to another temple - our own.

When the priest or deacon begins the gospel, when he says, “A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew, Mark, Luke or John", he as well as everyone in church is making a small sign of the cross with their thumb - on their forehead, their lips and their hearts. I add a fourth cross with my thumb to my hands. The idea is to have the gospel in our minds, on our lips and in our heart - and I add in our actions.

Could you make the sign of the cross with your thumb again, but just on your forehead. +

This is our temple - this is our command center - this is our sacred space.  When the brain goes, uh oh!

Today think - this is where Jesus comes - into our temple.

When we are baptized we’re anointed on our forehead - and our parents and godparents and often those around us - bless us with a tiny cross with their thumb or finger. A college student told me recently that his mom did that to him most every night  - till he went off to college - and it finally hit him what she was doing - and he was grateful.

Jesus wants to come into this temple - into this temple area. [Gesture tapping forehead.]

And if I finally get Jesus and what he was about, I finally get the inside us Jesus reality. Read today’s second reading from St. Paul to the Philippians and hear this message loud and clear. [Cf. Philippians 3: 8-14]

It’s in this temple - in this skull - in this sacred space - called our brain - this place called “me” - in our thoughts - that Jesus likes to visit.

Jesus says murder - adultery - stealing - starts in here - in our thoughts. It begins with envy and jealousy and lust and fairness stuff. This where we first start throwing stones at others. People cheat on their neighbor, family, spouse, in here way before they act it out - out there. Grouches, gripers, complainers and cynics, are not just spitting out those words and throwing those sharp edged stony words for the first time - when we hear them. They have been doing that inwardly for the longest time.


By now, I assume you’re saying, “Enough already."  I’d be saying that. By now I hope you have this Jesus within message in your temple area. Let Jesus move from the Mount of Olives or wherever he is - in tabernacles or Bibles - and let him come into your temple area today.  

* Painting on top: Christ Writes in the Dust by Clive Hicks-Jenkins, Commissioned for the Methodist Collection of Modern Art


Quote for Today - March 17, 2013

To someone who committed 
some small fault - 
"Tis only a stepmother 
would blame you."

Irish Saying

Sorry to all step-mothers. I thought this was cute and Irish-a-ee