Saturday, February 21, 2015

February 21, 2015


So beautiful, so soft,
snow slowly sliding down
the air outside my window.

Snow…. So silent, so unlike
rain – which fills the air
with a  dozen different  sounds.

Snow …. so sneaky, so tricky,
black ice – piling up – along
the street. Oops. Another accident.

Lord, let me arrive as rain….

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2015

Friday, February 20, 2015

February 20, 2015


the wash of rain,
perfect at times,
but sometimes
rain can drain
even the optimist
amongst us.
Yet it washes
sidewalks, cleans
buildings, provides
hope to the hopeless,
and tells all of us,
there is new life coming.
Hey, without water,
we wouldn’t be here.
Without water, we
wouldn’t exist. Without
water we couldn’t pray,
Without water, we wouldn’t
yell out to you our God,
“I thirst.” And you wouldn’t
have had been able to say,
“If anyone thirsts, let them
come to me!”

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2014



The title of my homily for this Friday after Ash Wednesday is, “40 days to a More Powerful You.”

When I was a kid my brother came upon a book, “Thirty days to a More Powerful Vocabulary.”

For about the next 30 days, we would see him in a real different mode.

He we would open his new word’s book every morning and start using a strange new word all day long. The word I liked the most was, “ses – qui – pe – dalion”.

It means a person who uses long words.

To break this word down from the Latin, it means “a foot and a half long”. Sesqui means “one and a half”; “ped” means “foot”.

It got us to grab the dictionary and try to stump him with a big word.

Looking back now 60 years later, the only word I remember him using  was that word, “ses – qui – pe – dalion”.


Lent is 40 days to practice some virtue or religious practice.

You know the only saying, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall: answer – practice, practice, practice.

We were taught the old Latin saying from Ovid:” Gutta cavat lapidem – non vi sed saepe  cadendo.” Drop, by drop, but not by force, the rock gets a hole in it.”

So basketball players, practice the same shot over and over and over again.

So in Lent, we practice every day something like fasting, or praying, or reading. That’s what those little books – with spiritual reading for every day of Lent is about.

So today’s first reading and gospel get at fasting.

One will lose weight from fasting of food – and if it’s well done, one becomes more disciplined.

And Isaiah 58 – today’s first reading – tells us what kind of fasting to do: being nicer to others. Not being on everyone’s case. Being more thoughtful. Less gossip. Less fighting.

Do this stuff – day by day by day – one becomes thinner in ego and unhealthy pride.

Do this stuff to be seen – one becomes fatter and   fatter with self-centeredness.


And doing all this inwardly – one notices in oneself – breakthroughs in being a more powerful spiritual person. Amen.

February 19, 2015


“Enjoying life.”

Why do those two words
usually bring a step back response
when someone asks,
“How’s it going?’ or
“What are you doing?”

“Enjoying life!”

Actually tasting the taste of an orange
or the spaghetti sauce or the raspberry
sherbet or the coffee bean in the coffee.

Actually praying the words and picturing
an enemy or a person who annoys us– 
when we pray, “Forgive us
our trespasses as we forgive those
who trespass against us?”

Stopping to ask a kid his favorite game
or her favorite song or favorite flavor
of ice cream?

“Enjoying life.”

You can bet, I am. How about you?

“Enjoying life.”

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2015

Wednesday, February 18, 2015



The title of my homily is, “Disappearing Act.”

Today is Ash Wednesday.

Ashes are put on our forehead and sometime before tomorrow morning they will have disappeared.

Today’s first reading and Gospel tell us about doing acts of penance – and religious deeds – but not to do them to be seen.

So we do this public act of penance on Ash Wednesday – but now for the rest of Lent – we are called to do what we do for penance privately – pray, fast, give alms, make sacrifices for others – but not to be seen.


There are two different prayers or formulas the person giving us ashes can say.

The first is, “Repent and believe in the Gospel.”

The second is: “Remember you are dust and into dust you shall return.”

I prefer the second – the older formula – the almost 2000 year old formula.”

“Remember you are dust and into dust you shall return.”

Remembering that, recalling that, every day for 40 days – not a bad idea – to help us grow in spirituality – to give us a growth spurt in the spirit.

It brings us back to our origins.

Suggestion: take your rosary and say that formula on all 59 beads – thinking about what we’re saying. It takes no more than 2 minutes a day.

GENESIS 2:7 AND 3:19

In the most primitive parts of the book of Genesis – the first book of the Bible,  we have these 2 texts – that in the beginning God formed us out of the earth, the dust, the soil, the mud - Genesis 2:7. That was how we began our Genesis in our mother’s womb. In Genesis 3:19 – the message is about our ending – the other side of our life.  Someday we’ll be going back into the earth – into the dust  from which we came.

Question: What to think and pray about during Lent?

Answer: See reality. See that we are a disappearing act.

Brand new socks age. Socks get holes in them. I made sure the two socks I’m wearing today – have holes in them. They are slowly disappearing.

Skin wrinkles. We age.  We are disappearing acts. I see mine happening at the age of 75 on the inside part of my arms – right below my elbows.

The song ends. The movie ends. The piece of pie has that last bite. The banana, the pear, the apple ages. It browns. It’s tossed or we eat it and it becomes it.

Human beings are disappearing acts.

Does anyone know whom their great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, ancestors in the year 1015 were or in the year 15?

We die. We disappear. But is that it? Is this are there is?

That is the question. Everyone consciously or unconsciously asks that question all their lives – at a health scare, another’s death, or what have you.

This is the major question, wondering, worry, we are challenged to look at during these 40 days of Lent.

Come Good Friday – Christ  - God – is killed – on the cross.

Lent ends with Easter – Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again to take us to himself – into heaven, into the whole human race – who have gone before us.


Yes we are disappearing acts – but the reappearance of Christ after his death – is our ticket to ride forever.  At some point we’ll all be forgotten – unless we’re another Rembrandt or Michelangelo or Elvis Presley – we’ll have disappeared from history and anyone knowing we were here – but we believe in the reappearance after our disappearance.

We can’t make that happen – only Christ – only God – can do that.

There’s centerpiece of our existence and we’re called to reflect up this every year in this season of Lent. Amen.
February 18, 2015


Which of the following is more me?

Lost and Found?
Light and Darkness?
Sheep and Goat?
Prodigal Son and Complaining perfect son?
Sin and Grace?
Good Thief vs. Bad Thief on the Cross?
Good Tree vs. Bad Tree?
Wheat vs. Weeds?

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2015

Tuesday, February 17, 2015



The title of my homily for this 6th Tuesday in  Ordinary Time is, “Have Any Regrets.”

The word “regrets”  appears in today’s first reading - the Story of Noah and his Ark. It's in Genesis 6:7ff where God says he regrets having made us.


How many parents have had that feeling when they look at their kids – and the only thing they see is their kids destructive behavior or infighting.

Grandparents show pictures of their kids in the midst of their successes – but we tend to keep secret any disasters in the family.



The story of Noah and his ark is familiar to all of us.

It’s telling us so much.

Like every parent God has positive hopes for all of us.

Yet in this story, there is so much sinful behavior that God decides to flood the earth and kill everyone – except for Noah and 2 of every animal. “Male and female he made them.”

It’s a great parable – a great fable – a big story with great imagery – and has many powerful messages

It’s one of the favorite Bible stories for  kids – perhaps they only see the mysterious magical sides of the story.

In the long run God doesn’t feel total hopelessness. It sounds like he has regrets for his regrets – as well as his plan to destroy the people of the world. He expresses his hope for his original dream – by leaving room for 2 of each animal in the ark – male and female he made them.

Just as from Adam and Eve we all came forth – now from Noah and his family -  male and female we came forth.


When I picture Noah’s ark, I hear in my mind the Beatles song, “We all live in a yellow submarine.”

                   Our house is an ark.
                   Our city is an ark.
                   Our country is an ark.
                   Our planet is an ark.

The history of the world is the history of ups and downs, good and bad times, times of “regrets” and times of “good moves”.


Regrets can destroy us. We can drown ourselves in tears and self-pity – and that can be our further undoing.

Regrets can depress us.

Regrets can also be the start of something new.

George Eliot, the writer, described regrets as the beginning of a new life.

I would nuance that by adding that regrets can be the nudge to get us to move better into a better life,

Scratch a regret and hopefully we’ll find a motive for a fresh start. Better, “Scratch a regret and we might make a fresh start.”

Is that why God flooded the earth? So that we might begin a new life. Do regrets get us to face the original motive for the original start.


I said this story has so many possible implications, so many indications, so many feelings we have all felt.

A team gets sick and tired of losing – because of poor management – or because players don’t care – that the owner wipes the team clean and begins a new start up – from the bottom up.

A person gets caught in a horrible marriage. They try everything. There is abuse or affairs or alcoholism – those are just words beginning with A – that cause us to cry and eventually start screaming, breaking plates and furniture – and then after the anger and the destruction they begin once again – one step at a time.

Regrets are one of life’s realities.

Listen to them.  They can be the beginning of a beautiful new beginning.
February 17, 2015


He stood there at his dad’s hospital bed –
rubbing his dad’s shoulder – knowing
there was only so much time left in his old body.
His dad must have been down to 144 pounds by now.
He knew death was now in that room along with the whole
family and tears and wonderings about, “What’s next?”

With one hand still on his dad’s bony shoulder,
he reached for his father’s hand with his other hand.
He held it. He moved it. He lifted it. He rubbed it.
He wanted his dad to give him some kind of a signal 
with a grab or a grasp that he knew we were all here.

At first there was no response – but he didn’t give up.
He then took his dad’s hand into his hand again.
He held both hands. He was gentle – because the
arthritis in both of his father's  hands had made 
him bumpy and boney.

As he was holding his daddy’s hands with his hands,
obvious memories flowed from his dad to him.

He remembered his daddy’s hands lifting him
onto his 2 wheel bike as he walked him 10 times 
around the block. His daddy’s hands were his training wheels.

His remembered his daddy’s hands feeding him 
and leading him and showing him how to throw
a football and how to hold a fishing rod.

Their hands were joined spontaneously in a circle 
around their daddy.  Their dad was unconscious, 
but they were very conscious of this being close
to being a last moment with daddy. They said 
a  loud "Amen" together. Suddenly their dad said 
an added “Amen” - as his eyes sparkled. They 
closed their eyes and held their hands tighter. 
Two minutes later he was dead - surrounded 
by love with all hands were on deck: family.

For some reason they separated hands and started
clapping, clapping, and clapping - tears, tears,

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2015

Monday, February 16, 2015



The title of my homily is, “Demons at the Door.”

That’s an English translation of an image in today’s first reading from Genesis 4: 8.

The New American Bible – the translation we use at Mass – uses the English Words, “Demons at the door.”


Let me mention two moments that help me with the phrase, “Demons at the door.”

The first moment happens when I’m baptizing a little baby. The tiny  baby boy or girl is being blessed at baptism. He or she is celebrated, welcomed into the church – becoming part of the body of Christ.

I compare the moment of baptism with a scene in the TV movie, “Roots.” The new born baby, Kunta Kinta, is brought out into the jungle in the night and is lifted up to the sky. It's a moment of thanksgiving. 

I get that - that new born babies are celebrated, honored, lifted up to God in thanksgiving.  I love moments at Baptism when a little baby is held and up and photographed in the arms of various people. Welcome kid to the human race, to the Church, to life. It’s like lifting up the newborn bread and wine – the body and blood of Christ - at every Mass.

I like those moments at Mass, at Baptism, in everyday life – when a grandmother or great grandmother or great grandfather – hold and lift up a baby.

That’s the first moment. I get it. I celebrate it.

The second moment is the tricky one. It's the reality of not only goodness and celebration of life - but it's also a moment we hear about sin. 

So at every baptism I feel and hear about sin - original sin and evil, and I don't like that feeling.  

When the deacon or priest doing the baptism talks about sin and original sin – in relationship to this new born baby, I feel ugh. This little 10 to 20 pound tot – is all innocence – and we’re talking about original sin in the baby's presence.

That always feels a bit off key for me.

I’ll have the same thought and  feeling this Wednesday – Ash Wednesday – when a mom or dad will come up the aisle here at church for ashes  - and they are holding a little baby and they present their baby for ashes. The deacon, Eucharistic minister or priest says one of two prayers as they put ashes on the little baby’s forehead.

“Repent and believe in the Gospel.”


“Remember you are dust and into dust you shall return.”

Either formula or statement feels funny to me in the presence of a little baby.

The kid was just born and we’re talking about repentance or we’re talking about death and dust.

That’s the first moment – from the experience of Baptism and also Ash Wednesday – and babies.


So I have trouble with picturing  little kids sinning, making mistakes, etc.

Then I got an insight about  this second moment about sin.

It happened to me when I was reading Bill Moyers’s book about the Cain and Abel story in Genesis 4. That's where I read for the first time about a Hebrew phrase, “YETZER HARA”.  It’s translated “Demons at the Door” or “The Evil Inclination."

This I got.

We all have inclinations in us - for good and for evil.

We see these inclinations in kids - and they are much more visible than us older folks.

Somewhere along the line little kids steal the cookie, pinch their new born baby sister – who is getting all the applause, attention, holdings. I remember going to see my new born grand niece.  Her mom brought in Olivia and placed her right in front in one of those little child carry ons - that work perfectly for car rides with kids. 

Just as I'm about to make funny sounds and signals to Olivia right in front of me, Benjamin - the first born - walks over and sits right on top of Olivia - facing me and blocking her from my sight. Kids can do these things. 

Haven't we all been there for a Christmas morning present openings. Parents stand there with camera in hand - to photograph the scene. 

Let the unwrapping begin.

Uh oh, with one eye on what they got, the other eye is on what their siblings got. 

Suddenly, sometimes, a kid drops his present and heads for his little brother's gift and wrestles it away from his sibling. Screams erupt. Cameras are put down. Parents try to separate kids. 

The door to their demons has been opened. Their evil inclinations have arrived. 

From reading about YETZER HARA – I learned about the reality of the evil inclinations we all have.

Down through life we call them temptations, evil.

They are in everyone.  That reality that I can sin – gets me in touch with what original sin means. It’s right there in that phrase – and a lot me.


One of my favorite religious humanism writers is Robert Fulghum. I get his stories and I get his books.

On my thoughts for today – I always remember the story of the young father who is with his little tiny son – going through a supermarket. A loud crash happens. 

The box-boy who takes care of disasters is running towards the smash and the crash of a shopping cart. He has with him mop and broom.

A little boy is sitting in the mess on a bag of ripe tomatoes - on top of what was part of the pickle shelf.

The boy has tears, saliva, cuts, blood and a running nose happening on his face. "The kid has also wet his pants and will probably throw up before this little tragedy reaches bottom."

The boy's father has been here before. His inclination to want to disappear has arrived. He wants to run - run - run. He wants to disappear for life.

That what the YETZER HARA is.

There’s Jesus in the gospels – leaving the crowds. Jesus didn’t have original sin – but here in today’s gospel – it seems he gets frustrated with the crowd who want signs – and he gets into a boat – and heads for the other shore.

In yesterday’s gospel he told the man he healed of leprosy, to not tell anyone but the priest at the temple.

Did Jesus do that because he didn't want to be overcrowded? Did Jesus do that because he didn't want to be overwhelmed. Did Jesus want to run at times?

We Christians believe that Jesus didn't sin, but he was human in all things as sin as 
This stuff I get – and we all got the YETZER HARA.


Augustine seems to have been caught by Paul’s description of all this in his letter to the Romans. I tell myself, I won’t let this happen again. I gossip. I overeat. I get drunk. I’m lazy. I hide. Nope, I say to myself. That’s the last time I’ll do that and I go out the door and walk right back into my problems.

Cain let his jealousy and anger take over and he invites the demons at his door, to enter into his mind and heart and behavior and kills his brother Abel.


This is the stuff of Lent.

This is the stuff of struggle.

This is the stuff of being able to laugh at ourselves.

This is the stuff of humility.

This is the stuff Jesus came to help us with.

Come Lord Jesus – don’t run away from me.
February 16, 2015


The church was filled with the usual
Sunday Morning crowd. The usual ushers
were ushering in folks to their preferential seats.
People were checking watches and cell phones.
Two or three kids were letting out some preliminary
sounds and screams. Various folks were looking
around at the different visitors, regulars, and giving
signals to friends  they knew various places in town.

Then the silent conversations began.

Some sat there - eyes closed in prayer - for family,
neighbors, relatives and friends.  Others were
busy making inner comments about themselves,
what’s going on in their lives, or that priest up there
and so and so at the organ. Horrible music as
usual. Why don’t they get a new music director.
And what’s with that lady in the fourth row – in
that dress. Doesn’t she know she’s in church?
And that teenager  - the one there with the tattoos.

And God looked at all who were there this morning –
rejoicing at all these people – all these people who
were there for all kinds of reasons: feeling emptiness
or they were chewing the cud of anger  or they felt
the need for bread from the table or wine from the

table this Sunday. Amen. Come Lord Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, February 15, 2015


[For  a  change  of  pace, since it was St. Valentine’s Day yesterday, I decided to write a love story. Since today’s First Reading and Gospel talk about folks with skin problems, I made up this story yesterday about 2 people with skin problems and did a second draft of it this morning. So the title of my story is, “It Was Valentine’s Day. This is totally fictional. The 2 characters in the story don’t exist, but in a way, I hope they do.]

It was Valentine’s day and Jack and Jill seemed to be the happiest couple in The Cozy Corner Restaurant.  They were in a booth over in the corner – laughing and laughing - and enjoying and enjoying - their steak and chips – red catsup on both – as well as strawberry milk shakes and heart shaped cupcakes for dessert.

The Cozy Corner Restaurant was bright lights – no low lights and candles restaurant – certainly not a Valentine’s Day Restaurant. Jack and Jill knew it wouldn’t be too crowded.

It was not only the 9th anniversary of their wedding – but also the 10th anniversary of their engagement: February 14th.

They met in rehab – both back from  Iraq – both wounded warriors from the
First Gulf War.  Both were wounded big time by I.E.D’s -  Improvised Explosive Devices.

Jill lost her sight – and had serious scars on forehead and face.  Jack lost one ear. His face was also seriously burnt and damaged for life.  Serious plastic surgery was performed on both of them – but … well – they had both been seriously scarred.

Recovery was slow – not just of skin and body – but also of soul and spirit.

The miracle happened when both met in the same rehab center. The more they talked, the more the skin of their souls healed.

Jack popped the question  - Valentine’s Day – 10 years ago. His best line was: “Hey, Jill, I recently realized the two of us can make one person. So will you marry me?”

“Yes, of course, I’ve been wondering when you’d ask.”

They did.

At first sight, some people upon seeing them - would shake their heads, close their eyes and turn away from them.

“Ooooh!” And “Ooohs” can have many interpretations – some of them hurtful.

At first it annoyed Jack that people would do this – but what made up for it at times – was that Jack knew Jill – being blind - couldn’t see other people’s faces.

At times - people who knew or got to know Jack and Jill – would wince and tighten their fists – but not at Jack and Jill – but at looks and comments by others.

Once - a college kid said, “Look at the stranger rangers over there – Ugly and Uglier.” One drunk college guy yelled “Hey lepers!” And the drunk’s  girlfriend laughed.

As they grew older – those who knew their story – would call them, “Beautiful and More Beautiful.”

I once heard some folks say about them, “You know that old cliché – ‘Couples who really love each other – begin to look like the other - more and more as time goes on.’ Well, did you notice that Jack and Jill are looking more and more like each other – every day.”

After rehab – after getting married - they both went to the same college – and both got the same Master’s Degree - in Social Work. Since Jill was blind this made Homework and studying together that much easier.

They worked – together - many times - both at 3 different Veterans Administration Hospitals – helping in the healing of so many wounded warriors.

The Army discovered they were great speakers – and their gig was great – not just for those in the military – but also others – who had heard about them.

They loved to say out loud in talks to military folks – as well as to others -  who were in the pits – or suffering from depression – or wounded from serious accidents or what have you, “I’m Jack!”  “I’m Jill.”

They would continue,  “And many people thought we were over the hill – because of our injuries. But as you can see here we are – not over the hill - we’re here fetching and giving out pails of clear cool water.”

If it was February, and it was an all-male group of wounded soldiers, Jill loved to say – sort of with a whisper and a cautious look around the room, “Love healed both of us. Laughter healed both of us. Meeting each other healed us. Then she would add: “Jack’s greatest compliment to me so far was, ‘Jill, it’s February. It’s the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition time, and I’m not interested in seeing anyone but you.’”

That always got a big, “Ahhh!” – except for some exceptional Christians.

Then Jill would say, “And when I first heard that, I asked, ‘Jack what’s this Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition?’”

Sometimes they would throw into their talks to wounded warriors, “We’re both Christians, Catholics, and we both love the gospel stories when Jesus healed people with skin problems – called ‘Leprosy’ back then.” Well, we discovered first hand – we’re being Jesus to each other – because Jesus healed folks – and our love for each other – healed us together.”

They also loved to say, “We didn’t know it back then – when we had great skin, the more we discovered what it is to have been burnt or wounded – we learned that everyone feels ugly – or hurt or burnt – from rejections, from broken relationships – from family fights – from this and that.

And they would love to conclude, “Yes, we have two beautiful kids, Lucy  and Dezi.  And yes, they’re funny, but you should see their skin.”