Saturday, July 27, 2013



The title of my homily for this 16th Saturday in Ordinary Time is, “The Wheat and Weeds Parable.”

Today’s gospel - Matthew 13: 24-30 -  has an intriguing parable from Jesus.

It’s a very difficult parable to put into practice. Jesus calls parables seeds. They slip into our ground and grow and then new life appears or pops up to challenge us in different places and in various ways.


Jesus tells about a farmer whose workers planted wheat seeds - but someone - an enemy - planted weeds.

Different commentators on the parable say it might be something that really happened  - and Jesus heard about it - and used it as the basis for his parable.

When the crop of wheat and weeds started showing up,  the farm hands came to the owner and said what was happening. They asked if they should pull up all the weeds - like right now  - like immediately.

The owner of the land says, “No. Do that you might pull up some of the wheat along with the weeds. At harvest time then we can do the separation.”

That’s the parable. Then Jesus asks us: “What’s your take on it?”


Picture the human mind or brain as a field. In it are planted lots of stuff. Sometimes it’s done by an enemy. Sometimes it’s done by ourselves.  If we have the TV remote or the computer - we can put all kinds of stuff into our mind. We can also turn off the TV or the Computer or what have you.

Some stuff - some seed - once it’s inside our brain - it’s there and we can’t get it out.

I was in Chartres Cathedral in France in 1996 with my two sisters and my brother-in-law. The tour guide said in English: “Don’t look over to our right - watch your wallets and pocket books - because there are two pickpockets there.”  Well of course, everyone turned and looked and I saw the two pickpockets quickly duck behind a big pole. Guess what? The two pickpockets are still in my brain. I see them in many churches. And they came to mind: as I was putting together this homily.


The second application is the great challenge from Jesus.

Some people go crazy with weeds in their garden.  It’s like the old story of the person who wrote six times to the Dear Mr. Gardener  in the local newspaper. Six different times the person wrote for advice. Obviously, the first five suggestions didn’t work, so the sixth suggestion from Dear Mr. Gardener was, “Learn to live with them.”

Some people learn to live with dirt on other people’s glasses and some don’t.

Some people have problems with bugs on other people’s windshields.

Some people go crazy with strings of spaghetti on their dad’s shirt as he eats at the nursing home and some don’t. 

Some people can’t stand such and such a priest’s long sermons and some read the bulletin.

Some people don’t like the way  so and so dresses for Mass - some people are thinking about last nights ball game.

Some people think so and so is wrong in how they pronounce Boston or Baltimore and some don’t mind it when people say “good” when  it should be “well”.

Some people complain about who comes to church and who doesn’t - who goes to communion and who doesn’t.

Some of us have lists about ourselves;  some have lists about others.


Sometimes we don’t get the remote and we can’t change the channel.

Sometimes we can sit behind poles in church or go to different Masses or check the web site to see who has what Mass or walk down different streets or don’t look - but sometimes those weedy thoughts and comments and scenes appear on our screens and we have to learn to live with them.


In the meanwhile we can enjoy the wheat called Bread - called communion - with Jesus - even though we’re thinking about the weather for this Saturday as we’re walking back to our bench from receiving Communion. Enjoy life. Enjoy the Lord. Don’t step on the weeds.

Quote for Today - July 27, 2013

"My son is my son, 
till he marries a wife,
But my daughter's my daughter 

all the days of her life."


Friday, July 26, 2013


Quote for Today - July 26, 2013

"In dreams begins responsibilities."

Willian Butler Yeats [ 1865-1939], Responsibilities [1914], epigram (from an old play)

Thursday, July 25, 2013


Quote for Today - July 25, 2013

"He drew a circle that shut me out -

Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:

We drew a circle that took him in."

Edwin Markham [1852-1940], Outwitted.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


There are layers and then
there are layers under that -
and then there are  layers
under that - so yes, I’ll listen -
honestly - I am listening to you,
but expect me to expect more,
and then some more after that,
and then some more after that,
because you and I and this
and that  are more than just
this or just that and that and
this and that and this and that.
So let’s keep going - keep
figuring out - who and what’s 
under that and then some more
under that and that and that.

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2013


Quote for Today - July 24, 2013

"Those who wish to sing always find a song."

Swedish  Proverb

Tuesday, July 23, 2013



The title of my homily for this 16th Tuesday in Ordinary Time is, “Violence and God.”

The topic was triggered from today’s first reading  from Exodus 14: 21 to 15:1. It not only tells of God as Savior - but also God as Warrior - killing the Egyptians - drowning them in the bathtub of the Red Sea.

Is God, Our Father,  also a God of violence? 

So when it comes to God, we all have to do our thinking and praying about violence and God - how we see and understand God.

I say that because I often hear people say when something goes wrong: "Is God punishing me?"

These are some first draft thoughts. I’ve never been able to reconcile Biblical  texts where God is described as both saving as well as killing people. I understand a bit - the violence of hurricanes, tornadoes and tsunamis - that people get killed by weather going wild. I see that as being part of the package called earth. I have problems saying God is part of humans killing humans  - and some of these stories in the scriptures where people are killed and saying God is doing this to kill our enemies - that I have not figured out.

Come Holy Spirit.


Once upon a time, a Rabbi asked if I had read The Koran. It was at a wedding reception in Washington D.C.  I said, “No. I hadn’t.” And he said, “You better.” So I went to Barnes and Noble and checked out different translations - and purchased a copy.

When I held The Koran in my hands,  it did not have for me the feeling of the sacred - as I feel towards our Bible. Yet it did feel different than other books. And I know for some Muslims - holding The Koran in one's hands is sacred and for someone to disrespect or even burn a Koran, that is an act of violence.

An analogy that hit me was this. I hope it’s not too far fetched.  It would be like the difference between the following 3 pieces of cloth.  Imagine the feel of a United States flag for a U.S citizen compared to the feel that same person would have for a flag of Estonia or Ecuador - unless that is their roots - and then the feel of a table cloth. All 3 are different - all 3 are cloth - all 3 elicit different feelings.

As I read The Koran I saw red. Fire. So I got a magic marker and every time I saw the word, “fire” or “burn” I highlighted that word in “orange”. Those words appear  quite a bit. Now I can pick up The Koran and page through it and see “fire” - “orange fire” - on many, many pages.  

I also wondered how much of that was part of the World Trade Center and Pentagon crashes - to burn down buildings and bring disaster. Was it from a religious motive? I think I hear Suicide Bombers saying that.

Surprise, after noticing the words "fire" and "burn" over and over again,  I began to notice mention of wars and violence and God striking people dead in our scriptures. It taught me that I could get a magic marker and do the same with our Jewish and Christian scriptures.

So the first comment I’d make is that our scriptures contain violence and God doing violent acts. Question: is it God or is it only us or what?

So when it comes to religions, I see blood and fire - as well as the good stuff.


In time there is an evolution of understandings about God as Warrior and God the Violent - to seeing God as a Peacemaker and God as Non-Violent.

In time some people discover that there are different evolving thoughts about what God is like. This can happen to religions as well as to individuals. We evolve!  Question: do I understand God today differently than I did many years ago? 


At times we discover different voices and understandings of God from the same period and the same people. It happens with our understanding of Jesus as well. Jesus voices violence and gnashing of teeth - and at other times Jesus says, “Put down the rocks and put down the swords.”


If we study the history of the world, we’ll find plenty of violence done in the name of God. Moses will send men with swords into the camps and kill thousands.  In Jesus’ time people were crucified all the time. Down through A.D. times many are killed in the name of religion - not just Christians, but also Muslims - and who have you and vice versa.  Read history and you’ll read about religious wars - crusades and massacres.


If you take a stand for non-violence, expect a tough time of it.

It’s difficult to turn the other cheek, to go the extra mile, to say from any cross to those who are violent in any way, “Father forgive them they don’t know what they are doing.”


As I began this homily, I said that these are first draft thoughts. They are. The bottom line is mystery and the bottom line is the ability to say, “I do not know.”

Quote for Today - July 23, 2013

"If you can't pray - at least say your prayers."

George Bernanos [1888-1948]

Monday, July 22, 2013



The title of my homily is, “On Retreat With Jesus: How Do I Love Him?”

Today - July 22nd - is the feast of St. Mary Magdalene.

Mary Magdalene is featured in today’s gospel - John 20: 1-2, 11-18.

We see her retreating into herself. She goes to the tomb that Easter Sunday morning. She experiences emptiness - an empty tomb - and then experiences someone she thought was the gardener. Then she - experiences and embraces Jesus.

The disciples are locked up in that upper room - filled with fear - and Mary is featured as going out and searching. Which of the two am I?

In spirituality there are those two movements: God in search of me and I in search of God. For me, Luke 15 - with its 3 parables - has always been the best example of those two movements. The Lost Coin and the Lost Sheep stories are God in search of us. The Story of the Prodigal Son is a story of God waiting for us. 

Abraham Joshua Heschel has those two books of his among many: Man’s Quest for God - 1954 and God in Search of Man - 1955 - that show these two movements.

Then there are those other possibilities - avoiding God at all costs or even running from God.

Then there is the great poem by Francis Thomson, The Hound of Heaven, in which he pictures himself running from God and God is running after him as a Hound.


Lots of people - especially women religious - are making retreats at this time of year. 

If you’ve ever made a directed retreat, a director would do well to give today’s gospel text from John to us. We’d spend 3 or 4 hours in silence reading, reflecting, reacting, to a text like this.

We’d break up the day of silence by walking and experiencing the grounds of a beautiful retreat house - by the ocean, a lake, or the woods - or the desert.

The hope would be that the retreatants would see themselves as Mary Magdalene in search of God.

I could picture the retreatant saying they can’t find Jesus. He is as if dead - buried - in a tomb.

I could picture the retreatant comparing herself or himself to Mary Magdalene and telling the director that - in a one to one session - which is a key part of a directed retreat.

I could picture the retreatant watching the director get up, go over to a CD player and playing the song, “I don’t know how to love him” from Jesus Christ Superstar.

I could picture the retreat director also handing the retreatant a poem, “How Do I Love You” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning - Sonnet 43 from Sonnets to the Portuguese and asking the retreatant to read it along with John 20: 1, 2, 11-18 again a few times - as well as remembering the song from Jesus Christ Superstar - "I Don’t Know How to Love Him" - and then to listen and be aware of what happens to the retreatant.

I can picture the retreatant realizing the thousand different ways she or he loves Jesus - not just an abstract Jesus - not a Jesus Christ Superstar - who is only a man in the musical -  but the Jesus in the Gospels, the Jesus in that person’s favorite of the four gospels. Then the Jesus of the Mass. Then the Jesus of the Mass extended in the meetings one has during the day - in neighbor, in seeing the birds of the air and the flowers of the fields as Jesus saw them - seeing a child and seeing the Kingdom of God in the way they see - all the times they experienced Jesus in the Cross - in the  stations of the cross on the walls of our churches and in the steps and experiences of our life - especially our falls, seeing Jesus when breaking bread with family and also in Eucharistic adoration, and on and on on. And like Mary Magdalene holding onto Jesus for dear life.

And then the person reports back to their director that they experienced Jesus pretty much like Mary did - and they cried out in prayer, “Jesus, Rabbi, Friend, Son of God” and Jesus embraced them.


Quote for Today - July 22, 2013

"The angry people are those who are most afraid."

Dr. Robert Anthony

Sunday, July 21, 2013



The title of my homily for this 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time C is, “Redemption: Sisters and Brothers - Becoming  My Better Self.”

Today we Redemptorists - the community that serves this parish of St. Mary's - celebrate the feast of the Most Holy Redeemer.

Every year when we come to this feast - usually the 3rd Sunday in July - we have different readings - and I like that - because it’s a creative challenge to find the theme of redemption in any reading from the Bible.

A possible theme from today's readings is: Redemption: Sisters and Brothers - Becoming My Better Self.


In today’s gospel from Luke 10: 38-42 we have the story of two sisters: Martha and Mary.

Coupling that with the theme of redemption - I began to think about a basic place - where redemption ought to happen. It's in the family - with sisters - then I added in my brain - brothers. 

Looking at my own life, I lucked out - having two sisters and one brother.

Even if one is an only child - one can deal with sibling rivalry and what have you struggles at times. Most of us have experienced sister with sister issues and brother with brother issues.  An only child might marry someone from a big family. How does that impact their marriage? An only child goes to a Thanksgiving or a summer family get together with cousins - what’s that like - what’s going on? 

The one big area that I’ve never grasped is that of the mystery of twins.  I wonder about that - especially on high school retreats - when there are twins present. What’s that like to grow up a twin - and the lifetime after that?

Today’s gospel triggers thoughts about the difference in personalities between two sisters. Martha is the go to gal. Mary is the laid back type. Martha is angry that Mary is spaced out - sitting there entranced by Jesus - while Martha feels she is stuck having to do all the work.

What is it like  or what was in like, in your family, when it came time to host a party - or a cook out - or do dishes - or shopping - or clean the house - or get the garbage out or what have you?  Who did what? Who didn't do what?  What triggered the common complaint: "It ain't fair!"


When people hear the Martha Mary story - what do people think about?

I’ve heard lots of people say: "You can say what you say Jesus - that Mary chose the best part - but did you enjoy the dinner? Did you thank Martha for the great  olive dish - or lamb stew - or delicious bread? Didn’t you wash feet at a dinner? Didn’t you praise serving as opposed to being served?"

Come to think about it ….

When do people think about how they are coming across as a person - as a brother or a sister? At every dinner - at every family get together - we can spot different types. 

Yet spotting is not enough.

What am I like? Sit back quiet type? Workaholic? Can I get you something to drink type? Good listener? Doing all the talking? Looking at one’s watch or cell phone to get the time? Always on one’s Smartphone?

Come to think about it …. what am I like?

If I see others and see stuff I don’t like about them - do I ever stop to look in the mirror and see what I am like? 

How do others see me? Do they want me to change? Do I empty the dishwasher? Do I pick up after me? Do I say, “Thank you!” Do I go over to the person who seems all alone?

Come to think about it …. we've all heard today's gospel story about Martha and Mary. Which of the two am I more like? Ask those you live with, who in our family is more like Mary? Who’s more like Martha?


Come to think about it …. we also heard the story of Abraham and Sarah in today’s first reading from Genesis 18: 1-10a. 

How good am I, how good are we, at hospitality?  

When 3 strangers show up on a hot day - a day that was getting hotter - Abraham runs from the entrance of his tent to greet them - bow to them - invite them to stop for some water - to bathe their feet - to rest under a tree - and to have some food. 

When they say, “Yes,” Abraham runs to his tent, opens it, tells Sarah to grab some flour and quickly make some rolls - and then he runs to the herd and picks a choice steer and prepares a cook out - and also gets some milk - and then Abraham waits on them.  

In Middle East cultural practices, Sarah stays in the tent, but one of the 3 strangers gives them the ancient blessing: "By the time they come back this time next year, Sarah will have a son.”

Come to think about it - how good are we as a couple or a family when guests show up at our house?

Come to think about it - do couples, do families, see how other families do life - do celebrations - do visits - do hospitality - and change for the even better? How can I / we improve?


Redemption is about getting better….

Redemption - being redeemed - starting again - a fresh start - new life - is a good theme to think about - and hope for.

Redemption is about before and after - the after being better than the before.

Redemption is about change and growth and conversion - and improvement.

Isn’t that one reason kids go to these summer camps?

I saw the St. Mary’s Kids’ Music and Dance Show on Friday evening - where the kids got on stage and did what they practiced all week in Music and Dance camp. The hope is that kids come up with skills and interests - and the ability to be on stage. 

One part I loved was that at least 75 kids got to speak into a hand held microphone and make a short comment. They are on their way - to read at Mass - to recite a poem at a grandmother’s funeral - to be on the debating team in high school - to run for a class office or a public office - to try out for a play.

There are summer camps for soccer and lacrosse - even math camps - but I was wondering if there were any camps for being a better brother and sister? Or does every camp actually get to that?

Hopefully a reading at Mass triggers such questions?


I remember seeing a play by Arthur Miller, The Price, on stage on Broadway. It triggered for me wonderings about my relationship with my brother - which was a good one - he being the oldest - I being the youngest.  I was grateful that we took time to be with each other - whereas in the play, the two brothers hadn’t talked to each other in 16 years. Victor took care of his dad - who fell apart after the Depression - whereas Walter didn’t - spending his time becoming a successful surgeon.

However, that play, The Price, also triggered for me an appreciation of my sister Mary who took care of our parents all her life - along with her marriage and family - but my brother and sister and I left home and basically didn’t take care of and be with our mom and dad. That play reminded me of the price my sister Mary played to do that and it reminded me to say, “Thank you” to her big time - many times.

Seeing a play like The Price or seeing Shakespeare’s play, King Lear holds a mirror up for all of us to see our true nature. The many stories in the scriptures that feature differences between brothers and sisters do the same. Check out: Cain and Abel, Ishmael and Isaac, Esau and Jacob, Leah and Rachel, Joseph and his brothers, the Prodigal Son and his older brother, and Martha and Mary.

However, seeing is not enough. Like going to a camp, we have to put into practice what we learned. The price of Redemption is practice -practice, practice, practice -  dying to oneself - paying the price to become my better self - a better brother or sister. Amen.

Quote for Today - July 21, 2013

"No family can hang out a sign that says, 'Nothing the matter here.'"

Chinese Proverb