Saturday, April 12, 2014


Poem for Today - April 12, 2014


At the junk shop, I find an old pair,

black with grease, the teeth still pungent
as burning hair.  One is small,
fine toothed as if for a child. Holding it,
I think of my mother's slender wrist,
the curve of her neck as she leaned
over the stove, her eyes shut as she pulled
the wooden handle and laid flat the wisps
at her temples.  The heat in our kitchen
made her glow that morning I watched her
wincing, the hot comb singeing her brow,
sweat glistening above her lips,
her face made strangely beautiful
as only suffering can do.

(c) Natasha Trethewey

Friday, April 11, 2014


Poem for Today - April 11, 2014


- for my father

What's left is the tiny gold glove
hanging from his left key chain. But,
before that, he had come to boxing,

as a boy, our of necessity - one more reason
to stay away from home, go late
to that cold house and dinner alone

in the dim kitchen.  Perhaps he learned
just to box a stepfather, then turned
that anger into a prize at the Halifax gym.

Later, in New Orleans, there were the books
he couldn't stop reading. A scholar, his eyes
weakening. Fighting, then, a way to live

dangerously. He'd leave his front tooth out
for pictures so that I might understand
living meant suffering, loss. Really living

meant taking risks, so he swallowed
a cockroach in a bar on a dare, dreamt
of being a bullfighter. And at the gym

on Tchoupitoulas Street , he trained
his fists to pound into a bag
the fury contained in his gentle hands.

The red headgear, hiding his face,

could make me think he was someone else,
that my father was somewhere else, not here

holding his body up to pain.

(c)  Natasha Trethewey

Thursday, April 10, 2014


Poem for Today - April 10, 2014


Once on a plane
a woman asked me to hold her baby
and disappeared.
I figured it was safe

our being on a plane and all.
How far could she go?

She returned one hour later,
having changed her clothes
and washed her hair.
I didn't recognize her.

By this time the baby
and I had examined
each other's necks.
We had cried a little.
I had a silver bracelet
and a watch.
Gold studs glittered

in the baby's ears.
She wore a tiny white dress

leafed with layers
like a wedding cake.

I did not want 
to give her back.
The baby's curls coiled tightly
against her scalp,
another alphabet.
I read new new new.

My mother gets tired.
I'll chew your hand

The baby left my skirt crumpled,
my lap aching.
Now I'm her secret guardian,

the little nub of dream
that rises slightly
but won't come clear.

As she grows
as she feels ill at ease
I'll bob my knee.

What will she forget?
Whom will she marry?
He'd better check with me.
I'll say once she flew

dressed like a cake
between two doilies of cloud.
She could slip the card into a pocket,

pull it out.
Already she knew the small finger
was funnier than the whole arm.

(c) Naomi Shihab Nye

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


Poem for Today - April 9, 2014



The Spring that I was six I found in the woods
Far in the back of our house a little dump,
A pile of rusty cans, bottles and one

Treasure: an Underwood typewriter, ancient, rusty,
Rusted solid in fact. But the black keys

Had not rusted, the bakelite or whatever it was

Had held the letters legible there in the woods,

And I, who knew the alphabet, had stared
Dumbfounded at that mysterious order. No wonder,

No wonder they threw it out, the letters are all
Mixed up. I hunted for an A and B and C
And through to Z, touching them one by one.

I remained dumbfounded long after I'd asked
And learned the reason for that disorder. The logic

I lacked there in the woods was, all along,

Right in the very structure of my hands.

(c) Paul Smyth

Tuesday, April 8, 2014



The title of my homily is, “The Power of the Cross.”

That’s a key theme in today’s gospel as well as the season of Lent.

We begin Lent with the sign of the cross in ashes on our forehead and we have the veneration of the cross as a key part of Good Friday liturgy – when everyone in the church comes up and kisses the cross.

We make the Stations of the Cross privately as well as publicly on each Friday evening in Lent. We have this big cross here in our sanctuary to remind us that Christ died for us on the cross.


What are your personal practices when it comes to the sign of the cross?

We see athletes make the sign of the cross when they are to attempt  a field goal or when they about to take a key foul shot. I always remember a baseball moment from Dave Concepcion of the Cincinnati Reds at the time. He got up to bat in the Baseball All Star game and he made the sign of the cross 2 times – and he hit a double.

It’s superstition. It’s faith. It’s hope.  Sometimes it’s a mixture of trying to get an edge – using the cross as a type of magic or what have you – as well as a moment of prayer.

Some people make the sign of the cross when they wake up in the morning and when they are going to bed at night. It can be a half a second morning prayer and a half  second night prayer.

I like the moment at baptisms when the deacon or priest doing the baptism asks the parents to bring the child around and ask each person in their party to impart a sign of the cross on the child’s forehead.

A lady told me that once her children were baptized – every night before they went to bed – she signed a tiny sign of the cross on their forehead. She did that for one son till he was 21.

Last night  singer Darius Rucker sang the National Anthem at the opening of the NCAA final between Kentucky and Connecticut and he had a strong looking cross around his neck and obvious for all to see.

I find myself making the sign of the cross going by every church I pass – as well as those white crosses on our highways – some roads worse than others. I like this church steeple with it’s cross glistening in the sun – sometimes.  You can see the cross from all over town.

This morning I’m asking all of us to reflect on what meaning the cross has in our life? Multiple meanings are okay as an answer to this test.


Today’s first reading from Numbers in the Old Testament has a significant text for us Christians when reflecting upon the cross. Snakes were killing the Israelites in the desert – so Moses tells folks to catch a snake –and hang him up on a poll  – telling folks this is what is killing you.  How’s that for an advertisement for the cross that goes back at least 3000 years? It has  a clear message – finding out the killer and announcing a campaign to stop him. I assume that’s one reason the medical profession has the snake on the poll as a symbol. Let’s find out what’s hurting or killing our people.

Today’s gospel has Jesus telling the crowds who he is – that even if you kill me – even if you lift me on high – I’m here for you.


I want to close with the ancient prayer: "We adore you O Christ and we bless you because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.


Poem for Today - April 8, 2014

(for an eighty-sixth birthday)


I remember today a Quebec roadside, the crucifix
raised crude as life among farming people,
its shadow creeping, dawn and twilight, over their lives.
Among wains, haycocks and men it moved like a savior.

So old, so scored by their winters, it had been staked out
perhaps by a band of ruffians on first Good Friday.
The way it endured, time would have bruised his fist in striking it.

What time had done, breaking the bones at knee and wrist,
washing the features blank as quarry stone,
turning the legs to spindles, stealing the eyes

was only to plant forever its one great gesture
deeper in furrow, heave it high above rooftops.

Where time had done his clumsy worst, cracking its heart,
hollowing its breast inexorably, - he opened this Burning-glass
to hold the huge landscape: crops, houses and men, in Its fire.


He was irremovably there, nailing down the landscape,
more permanently than any mountain time could bring down
or frost alter face of. He could not be turned aside
from his profound millennial prayer: not by birds
moved wonderfully to song on that cruel bough:
not by sun, standing compassionately at right hand or left.

Let weathers tighten or loosen his nails: he was vowed to stand
Northstar took rise from his eyes, learned constancy of him.

Let cloudburst break like judgment, sending workman homeward
whipping their teams from field, down the rutted road to barn

still his body took punishment like a mainsail
bearing the heaving world onward to the Father.

And men knew nightlong: in the clear morning he will be there
not to be pulled down from landscape, never from his people's heart.

(c) Daniel Berrigan


The title of my homily is, "The Police!"

That’s the thought that hit me as I read today’s two readings for this 5th Monday in Lent.

My homily won’t be too long, because today’s readings are long – and some of you have to get back to work.

The Police.


What’s your take on the police? 100 cars surround us or go past us while we’re driving. We notice very few of  them – but we spot police cars.

Last week when they had this gigantic traffic jam in Annapolis, I heard people saying, “Where were the police when you need them?”

I want a FDA – to police the manufacturing of drugs and food – to check for health hazards. I want people to check on emissions and our water and our labeling, etc. etc. etc.

I hear athletes now wanting better policing of PED’s – wanting the playing field to be level and fair.

So when it comes to policing, what’s your take?


Who delegated the two dirty old men in today’s  first reading to want Susanna arrested?
Who made them the police? [Cf. Daniel 13: 1-9, 15-17. 19-30, 33-62]

And we find out they are the bad guys.

And the crowd, the community, crash in on them and find them guilty of the crime they wanted to accuse Susanna of – to save their skin.

And the men in today’s gospel want to condemn this woman caught in adultery – they want to throw rocks at her. [John 8: 1-11]

And Jesus like Daniel saves her – from the rocks – as Jesus gives us the great mantra – “Let the one without sin be the first to throw a rock at her.”

And then the tiny detail, “And they walked away beginning with the eldest.”

Who makes whom the police?


Rock throwers are still around.

The thought police are still hunting down mistake makers.  If someone is making a speech or announcing a ball game and they have a speech wardrobe malfunction or “wrong” comment" – it goes viral on other programs – as well as YouTube.

In listening to priests I hear comments about Liturgical Nazi’s. If you make one slip of the tongue or do one thing wrong – they let you or others know.

During political campaigns, I've noticed that people police bumper stickers in Catholic Parking Lots.

Pastors or bishops receive e-mail – sometime anonymous from the thought police – on a regular basis.

Let him or her without something contrary to the Spirit of Jesus make the first complaint.

If I get anything out of this gospel from John and this reading from Daniel, the older we get, the more understanding we ought to be. I don’t know about you, but I fear becoming a grouch. Hello, hello, listen to the title and the theme of this homily.

I think we all ought to read today’s two readings very carefully – along with Luke 15 – where the refrain is, “There is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous people who need no repentance.”  We ought to hear Pope Francis’ off hand comment to the reporter on the plane about gays – “Who am I to judge.” I think we ought to get the old, old book, The Scarlet Letter and read it very carefully. It’s all about the community throwing rocks at Hester Prynne – for her sin of adultery.


Sometimes we see police just sitting in their cars –in a big parking lot - and not out there checking the speed cars are going by.  Maybe we all ought to put our inner policeman or woman in park – and start talking to our inner policeman or policewoman – instead of judging everyone else than ourselves. Amen.

Monday, April 7, 2014


Poem for Today - April 7, 2014


He climbed toward the blinding light
and when his eyes adjusted
he looked down and could see

his fellow prisoners captivated
by shadows; everything he had believed
was false. And he was suddenly

in the 20th century, in the sunlight
and violence of history, encumbered
by knowledge. Only a hero

would dare return with the truth.
So from the cave's upper reaches,
removed from harm, he called out

the disturbing news.
What lovely echoes, the prisoners said,

what a fine musical place to live.

He spelled it out, then, in clear prose
on paper scraps, which he floated down.
But in the semi-dark they read his words

with the indulgence of those who seldom read:
I'ts about my father's death, one of them said.
No, said the others, it's a joke.

By this time he no longer was sure
of what he'd seen. Wasn't sunlight a shadow too?
Wasn't there always a source

behind a source? He just stood there,
confused, a man who had moved
to larger errors, without a prayer.

(c) Stephen Dunn

Sunday, April 6, 2014



The title of my homily is, “Cries for Mercy.”

That’s the theme that hit me after reading today’s readings – especially today’s Psalm response: “With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.”

We Redemptorists would notice that – because that’s where our motto and message comes from: “With Him There Is Fullness of Redemption.” In Latin – it’s “Copiosa Apud Eum Rememptio.” You’ll find that in our literature and tradition.

It’s from today’s Psalm 130 – the famous De Profundis  Psalm. “Out of the depths I cry to you O Lord.”


I like to picture churches as one big gigantic crying room.

I was up to our church in Philadelphia – the shrine of St. John Neumann – this Saturday morning – for the funeral of a priest. Just got back.  And there was a great baby screamer for a good part of the Mass. I was taught never – never – never ever -  as priest – to make comments about babies crying in church. I know some folks in the different church benches give dirty looks  at parents of crying babies, but I know never to do that as priest.

In fact, I like babies crying in church – especially because of a very sad memory.  I came back from Anne Arundel Medical Center one Sunday morning – after just baptizing a little tiny baby that died just after birth. Her parents were from Western Canada – the father was trying to make the Capitals – and they were all alone. Bummer. Bummer. Bummer. And at that 7:30 Sunday  morning Mass here no babies were crying. I said, “If anyone has a baby here, please pinch her or him and make him or her cry.”

I wanted to hear a baby cry.

Ooops – there was this other time…. At my brothers funeral there was a crying baby. Her mother got up to leave when her baby was crying. I stopped  and  said while preaching, “That’s all right Mary Dawn. Stay. The baby is not bothering me.”

After Mass the mother said to me, “It wasn’t the crying. The stink was too, too, much.”  Live and learn.

What are your cries? What are your screams from down deep  in your depths?

I like to sometimes say while preaching: “There are 4 basic cries of the human heart: Help, Sorry, Thanks, and Wow.”

You’ve heard those as the four basic prayers.

I hold if we can’t say those 4 cries to each other, how the heck can we say them to God – as prayers.

As the First Letter of John says: we can see each other, we can’t see God.”[Confer 1 John 4:20]


In this homily I want to stress the Sorry Cry.

Looking at today’s readings – I’m hearing the reality of cries – from death – from death by sin – and what have you.

So I’m saying that  many people cry in this big crying room called “church”.  We all have feelings of deep down sorrow.

Let’s pause for a moment here.  Be quiet. Silent. Hush! Listen to the silent cries filling this church right now: cries because of cancer, death,  health worries, loss of a job, kids have dropped out of church, grandkids are not baptized.

I have a whole book entitled, Cries….  But Silent. It’s out of print – but I think it was the best of my books.  I simply tried to capture in images and words – the cries I heard people telling me.

People feel dead – weighed down – because of the mistakes of one’s life. Mistakes from the past can drain the life out of a person.

Death – another’s death can do the same. And then we feel dead – half alive.

Or we look at our job as parents – or spouse – or maybe a marriage fell apart – or our kids fell apart – so we feel we’ve done a horrible job and we’re drained or dead as a result.

Remember the poster from years ago that showed a tombstone that said, “Died at 35 – buried at 70.”

Or we see our laziness on the job – and feelings of too much wasted time and maybe a life crush us.

And we’re crying, “Sorry!” for all our laziness or mistakes or sins – or what have you.

That’s the sorry cry.


The title of my homily is, “Cries for Mercy!”

Mercy is embedded in “Sorry!”

“Sorry” is embedded in the cry for forgiveness.

Today’s first reading from Ezekiel 37: 12-14 is a message of hope that God will open our graves – lift us from the pits – give us new life.

Today’s second reading from Romans 8:8-11 says the same thing – contrasting begin dead to sin – but we can come alive – become right again because of Christ.  The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead can raise us to life again.

Our God is a God of new beginnings – fresh starts.

Our God doesn’t yell at us – but heals us when we yell “Sorry!”  to Him.

Our God is not a rock thrower – but with arms open – hands open, he welcomes us home every time.

Today’s long gospel – John 11:1-45 - has Jesus experiencing  the death of his friend Lazarus. When Jesus finally gets to Lazarus’  tomb – Jesus becomes perturbed and trouble. Notice the text says, “Jesus wept.”

It’s then that Jesus cries out, “Lazarus come out.”

We’re beggars – we’re in the depths of downness – pain – hurt – crying for mercy – fullness of mercy and redemption.

That’s the theme I’m preaching today.


So pray those 4 cries: “Help…. Sorry …. Thanks …. and Wow!

So pray Psalm 130 if you want to know how to pray – how to cry out to God – when we feel down and sorrowful for dumb moves in our life.

So just become quiet and hear Jesus crying because he loves us and hear him call us by our first name and cry out, “Come out!”

[The following short document was found in a stone pottery jar – which was in a large stone burial box – wrapped in cloth and wax – in what was an ancient burial spot – just some 10 miles outside of Jerusalem. The document does not begin with “The Gospel According to Lazarus”  - but scholars and scientists who studied it  - determined that it might have been written by either the Lazarus in the Gospel of John or by an eye witness who sat down and talked with Lazarus – maybe a scribe – and wrote down his story. Hence the title: The Gospel According to Lazarus. The following is an English translation of the document which was written in ancient Aramaic – the language used by Jesus and native Jewish people in that place and time in Israel.]

Jesus was my friend. He loved to come to our house to see my two sisters and me. 

Better he mainly talked with my sister Mary and me – because Martha was always in the kitchen cooking – which she loved to do – but then she would complain that Mary never helped her cook or clean.

We would sit outside – in the back – under some wonderful trees our grandfather had planted years and years ago. It can be hot in Judea – a good bit of the year – especially in the summer.

Martha would serve us as Jesus would tell us what he was doing – where he had been – and what he saw happening next.

He said he was fearful of the Scribes and the Pharisees wanting to see him killed – and now the high priests in Jerusalem – seemed to be in on wanting him out of the way as well.

Mary and I often said after he left – while Martha was cleaning and doing this and that – and complaining we were doing nothing but sitting around – that it was good that we were here – that Jesus had a place of peace – to relax and unwind – here in down south Palestine.

Then I got sick…. which put Martha into a panic – because she could do nothing about it – other than bring in a dozen doctors. Nothing worked. I appreciated her trying everything – but what really helped was Mary just sitting there – being with me till the end.  I think she chose the better part – but I didn’t tell Martha that.  I learned that people are people and once they hit 35 or so - they are the way they are – and that’s the way they always are.

Anyway I was hoping Jesus would come down to see us before I died. In fact, my sisters sent messages to Jesus that I was dying – but he didn’t come.

I died.

I was buried.

I was in the dark – but kept seeing light – off in the distance.

“Is this heaven? Is that the Life and Light after death that Jesus talked about? Is that where the Father – God our Father – is?”

These were my thoughts. Obviously, I was in unfamiliar territory.

I didn’t know.

I was in the dark.

Then I heard Jesus’ voice calling me, “Lazarus, come out!”
I hesitated – even though – it was Jesus’ voice – which I was quite familiar with.

Do I risk going back to everyday life on earth – or do I risk going forward to God our Father – the Father that Jesus was always talking about?

I knew faith is a risk – because we don’t know what tomorrow will bring – yet isn’t every night a going into the dark of sleep – with the hope of waking up in the morning – waking up to the light of a new day?

I hesitated.

Do I take that risk of faith and wake up from death and go towards the voice of Jesus – which I knew was his – from all the times we talked in our backyard?

I heard his strong voice again. “Lazarus, come out!”

So I took the risk – based on my faith in Jesus – and started walking towards the voice.

I was wrapped in burial cloths and I could smell me – and the stink of death all around me – but I kept walking.

As I sensed I was out of my cave tomb, I felt the warm light of day. I then heard Jesus saying, “Untie him and let him go.”

Martha was the first one who got to me. When she uncovered my eyes, I could see Jesus standing there – with Mary right next to him. Martha hurriedly started unwrapping the rest of me.

At that I could hear Martha’s mind saying as she saw Mary just standing there, “Jesus Christ, tell her to help me!”

Well, we all marched back to our house. You should have seen the crowds on both sides of the road – cheering Jesus on – and looking at me in shock. I guess they never saw a dead man who came back from the dead before.

The first thing I did was take a great bath. The first thing my sister Martha did – obviously – was organize a big meal – a big celebration – for my return – my resurrection.  And Jesus sat there – with Mary next to him on his left – and I was on his right.

Later on I heard that James and John were jealous about that – but they got over it.

A short time after that – Jesus’ enemies arrested him. His disciple, Judas, had betrayed him for 30 pieces of silver.

Jesus died on a cross the next day – and like me – was buried in a cave.

I knew that was not the end of the story. I was there. I made that act of faith that death is not the end.

Then when I heard the story that went around that Jesus rose from the dead 3 days later I laughed. He beat me by 1 day.

Next time I see him, next time I die, next time I hear Jesus say after I die the second time, and I hear a second time, “Lazarus come out!”  - we’ll talk about all this. And if Mary dies ahead of me – I’m sure she’ll be at his side. And if Martha dies ahead of me, I’m sure she’ll be in the kitchen of heaven – cooking up a storm – barking out orders – and complaining about all those who are like Mary and me – folks and friends of Jesus – who simply like to sit and enjoy his presence.

How do I know all this? By faith – of course. It’s a risk saying all this – but what is faith – a risk of course. 

                                                                             © Andy Costello, Reflections  2014