Saturday, February 28, 2015

February 28, 2015


God dances every dance,
the Alley Cat and the waltz,
on the world’s dance floor.

God also signals all those just
on the edge of the dance, “Come, 
please join us in the dance.”

God laughs, God signals, God calls
all to get off your chair and hop
your way right onto the dance floor. 

God urges all to be full partners
linked to each other in this great
big celebration called the dance of life.

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2015



The title of my homily for this Friday in the First Week of Lent is, “Judging One’s Weaving.”

I noticed in a Lenten Reflections book, an interesting comment by Jacques Maritain for this Friday of the First Week of Lent. [1]

In talking about judging each other, Maritain says that everyone judges everyone - more or less.

He adds people notice our limitations, deficiencies, errors. We all make mistakes. We are noticed. We are judged on our behaviors and our personalities.

He adds about others, “We can render judgment concerning ideas, truths, or errors; good of bad actions: character, temperament and what appears to be a person’s interior disposition.”

He’s saying we are judging others on a regular basis. We think things and then inside our brain say the following about others,  “That’s nice what he’s doing.” “That’s interesting what she’s wearing.” “That is smart.” “That is dumb.” “That’s crazy.” “That’s wonderful.” "Great move."

Then he adds this significant statement: “But we are utterly forbidden to judge the innermost heart, that inaccessible center where the person day after day weaves his or her own fate and ties the bonds binding him or her to God. When it comes to that, there is only one thing to do, and that is to trust in God. And that is precisely what love for our neighbor prompts us to do.”

Read that over and over again - just that quote - till you get it. It could lead to dropping the rocks we want to throw at others. [Cf. John 8: 1-11; Luke 6:36-38]


That last comment led me to think about all the people – 95 % women – whom I see crocheting, knitting, with threads – cotton – or whatever they use - just sitting there on couches, corner chairs, benches, trains, planes, beaches, bleachers, working on their knitting projects.

That lead me to think about weavings and cloth covers on walls, chairs, baby blankets, and all sorts of crafts. We have all see all those works of art that are everywhere.


Then there is the weaving that is me.

I see some of it. God sees all of it.

It’s me. It’s my life. It’s my fate. It’s my destiny.

It’s the work of art that is me – with are my threads.


In today’s gospel Jesus talks about an altar. That’s here in Matthew 5:20-26.  Later on in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus talks about an inner room – that nobody sees but us.  Following up on Jacques Maritain I like to imagine that inner room is like a little chapel and that’s where that altar is.

And going back to the weaving that is me forming me - I assume that one of the goals of Lent is to study that weaving – judging that weaving that is me.

So I’m assuming that’s where my weaving is – in that deep secret inner room that each of us has – where there is an altar.


Here we are at that altar this morning.

We come here and see that altar  - we come here to offer ourselves – our gifts – Christ – to God our Father – but we see these selfish designs and experiences – especially  stuff we don’t like about ourselves – especially a hurt – a disaster with our brother or sister that calls for forgiveness.

We deal with that during Mass – we make choices to love and forgive – then we come to the altar for more love and communion with everyone.

We do this knowing there is fullness of redemption with Christ. 



[1] Jacques Maritain, page 120, in A Lenten Sourcebook: The Forty Days, Book One, Ash Wednesday to the Monday of the Third Week of Lent, Edited by J. Robert Baker, Evelyn Kaehle, Peter Mazar, LTP Liturgy Training Publications

Friday, February 27, 2015

February 27, 2015


Piano, harp, flute,
tuba, trombone,
violin, bagpipe,
drums, drums, drums,
who am I – even
though we different,
we can make music
together and discover
who we are in the
sounds of music.

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2015

Thursday, February 26, 2015

February 26, 2015


X wants black and white conversations,
I’m right, you’re wrong. Give me a yes
or a no answer. Please – just tell me.

Y wants red or blue, heart of head conversations.
You coming at me with analysis, thought.
I’m coming at you with impressions, feelings.

Z wants the whole box of crayons and colors.
It’s complicated. It has shades. It has implications.
A lifetime of slow understandings and quick misunderstandings.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2015
February 25, 2015


I don’t know about you, but I get mind nudges all the time.

Clean! Dust! Listen! Tell!  Shut up! Don’t go there! Hurry!
Speak up? You’re being a jerk! Quick! Pray! Please, say,
“Thank you!” Start the ball rolling! Call!  Well, find out!
Make a list! Go to church! Don’t play games! Try again later.
Buy low. Sell high. It’s always the money. Practice! Practice!
Practise what you preach. Stay calm. Find out! Less TV.
Go to bed  earlier. Get out of bed earlier. Say, "Help.”

I don’t know about you, but I get mind nudges all the time.

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2015

Tuesday, February 24, 2015



The title of my homily for this First Tuesday in Lent  is, “The Power and the Weakness of Words.”

At least that’s the thought that hit me from today’s two readings – as I try to put a thought into words.

What are your thoughts when you think about words, and sentences, and “The Power and the Weakness of Words.”


Today’s First Reading brings out the power of words.  The author – Second Isaiah – talks about the power of God’s Word  coming out of God’s mouth.

He’s saying in so many words, that God’s word is like the rain and the snow falling down from the heavens – watering the earth – making the land fruitful – bringing forth seeds and wheat – which in turn that brings forth bread to be eaten.

The farmer knows all this very well.


Today’s gospel talks about the power of words – as in prayer for daily bread – as in forgiveness – as in praising God. Today’s gospel talks about the power of non-forgiveness. It can get us thinking about the refusal to forgive others and how that can boomerang back at us or on us.

Today’s gospel also talks the weakness of words – that is, when words are mere babble – that is, empty words. Babble is not prayer. Babbling at others is not conversation or communion and communication. And if we babble in our conversations with others - our words with each other become – as with God – empty nothings – non-creative sounds and mutterings.

But words that are thought out, prayers that are thought out, words that are meant to convey a message, those words have power. Compliments – or their opposite,  curses – have power, Babble – mutterings don’t.

So the thought of this homily is to become aware of our words – mean our words – think about what we are saying and realize when we are mere babble.


The title of my homily is, “The Power and the Weakness of Words.”

What are your thoughts about words?

Think! Filter! Consider! Be aware of words! Listen!

Reflect upon how listening and not listening affects others.

Reflect upon how what we say can help or hurt another.

How many times have we been talking heavy with someone, one to one, and they say, “I always wished my dad would have given me one, ‘I love you!’ while he was alive.”  Or, “I am forever grateful for our 3rd year High School teacher who said something wonderful to me and it changed my life.”

My nephew once said to me, “Uncle Andy, something you said in a letter to me some 10 years ago – really helped me in my life. Thank you.”

Speak up! Speak out!  Something we might say, might help someone for the rest of their lives.

Shut up! Be quiet. Not saying something that we were about to say, might prevent hurting someone for the rest of their lives.

Realize that silence can be golden and silence can be like one of those kitchen sink wash cloths our mom rubbed our mouth with when we were kids.


We’re hearing from the book of Genesis in our first readings.  We heard a week or so ago that we are made in the image and likeness of God. God’s words are powerful and effective – creative.

May our good words make a difference in the lives of those around us. May our destructive words – disappear from our minds and our mouths. Amen.

February 24, 2015


People sometimes get criticized
for revising their story – their history.
Didn’t you know that’s reality?
That’s life. That’s growth. That's significant.
We need to keep writing and re-writing and
re-reading our story – and keep noticing
what we missed in the first reading. In fact,
one of the great blessings of family is to ask
each other about what it was like back then?
And then to say over and over again,
“Oh that’s what you were going through.
Well, I wish I knew that about you back then.”
And the other person says, “You didn’t know?  
I didn’t know. I didn’t have a clue
about what I was going through
back then, but I do now. Want to know?"

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2015

Monday, February 23, 2015



The title of my homily for this First Monday in Lent is, ”Commandments: You Have Choices, You Know That, Right?”

Today’s readings trigger some thoughts about the commandments.


The first reading contains one of lists Commandments as found in the Old Testament – and you’ll find some of those listed commandments in the New Testament as well.

When we mention commandments to people, my guess and my assumption is that they will think of the 10 Commandments first.

People will picture the stone tablets that are mentioned in the Jewish Scriptures – as well as the stone granite monuments with the 10 Commandments etched into the stone on lawns and buildings. They’ll think about the attempts at times to have them removed from buildings etc. because of desires to separate church from state. 

We can smile at that, because various Biblical scholars hold that the 10 Commandments in the Bible can be traced to the Hammurabi Code which is much earlier than the 10 Commandments in the book of Leviticus which we heard today. So they are both religious and government.  In other words – they come from the state and they then became Jewish law and then were considered religious.


But there are other choices.

There was the Jewish story that rabbis were asked to sum up the Law while standing on one foot.  You also know there were 613 laws or commandments  in the Old Testament.  So standing on one foot would be tricky business.

I like the scenes in the New Testament when Jesus was challenged on what was the Law, what was the main commandment – and we have two versions of that struggle Pharisees and others had with Jesus on this.

You shall love the Lord your God with your whole mind, soul and strength and you shall love your neighbor as yourself. Those are the two and the greatest commandments.


John Shea told the story about how he was in the rectory one Sunday morning and there was a phone call. He figured it would be someone wanting to know what time the next Mass was. It would be nice to talk to a live person over an answering machine.

The person on the other side says, “I was just in the kitchen with my kids and we’re having an argument about the 10 commandments. I don’t know what the last 2 are – could you give me them right now?”

John Shea says: “Oops he couldn’t remember them right then and there either.” So he told the truth and said, “Sorry.”

To me that’s like the Act of Contrition. Who said we have to say the formula? I tell people in confession, you don’t have to follow the formula. You can simply say, “Lord have mercy.”  That would obviously be better if we are rattling off prayers without thinking. Or I tell people I have never said the formula Act of Contrition since high school but have said since the first year of high school. “Lord it hurts to have hurt you or others, but please stand by while I try again.”

Or wouldn’t a better list than the 10 commandments be the beatitudes or the list of commandments in today’s gospel: feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit the sick and those in prison.


So that’s my homily on the Commandments.  We have choices. In fact, I like Paul’s commandment from Galatians 6:2. Bear one another’s burdens, and thus you shall fulfill the Law of Christ.
February 23, 2015


If I were a bird,
I’d want to be a hawk
or an eagle and have
all the other birds
scared of me.

If I were a bird,
I’d want to be
a nightingale
or any singing bird
bringing music
to  the backyards.

If I were a bird,
I’d want to be an owl,
being wise enough
to know all there is
to know in all the

If I were a bird,
I’d want to be
a bluebird or a
cardinal or a
canary bringing
a bit of color to
someone who
sees life in only
black and white.

If I were a bird
I’d want to be
a bird who travels
thousands and
thousands of miles
knowing there is
much more to see.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2015

Sunday, February 22, 2015



The title of my homily for this First Sunday in Lent [B] is, “Covenant.”

Today’s first reading from Genesis has the word “covenant” 5 times.

Besides that, when celebrating Mass together,  we often hear the word, “covenant” – so I thought I’d preach a few words about covenant today.

I’d begin by saying, “We already have an understanding of what a “covenant” is. Then, by thinking about and pulling together what we already know about covenants – we will have a greater awareness of our religion and our life.


A covenant is a deal, an agreement, a contract, between parties.

I’ll do this and you’ll do that. Agree or disagree?

I'll do this, if you'll do that.


Before most people could write, covenants were made by word, ceremony and gesture. “Raise your right hand and repeat after me.”

Place your hand on the Bible and repeat after me ....

The Bible is also wonderful for helping us understand that people make deals, agreements, covenants with each other.

It also says we have deals and expectations of God and God for us.

Hey God, enough with the snow. How about it?  But then again, thanks for the water and thanks for seasons – sometimes. You’re supposed to know, God, when enough, is enough.

Or then do we slip in, “Or are you getting even with Boston – for possible cheating in that playoff game with the Ravens?”

Human beings don’t change on the basics. Our eyes – our ears - observing – listening - we could say, “We know all about basic human understandings. We’re still the same after all these years.”

Have you heard any comments like the following?  They are all statements about supposed agreements or covenants. “But I thought we agreed we’d meet at 6:30.”  “You  bring the beer; I’ll bring the sandwiches.”  “If I shoveled the snow out of that spot in front of my house, I assume you wouldn’t take that spot.”

Expand that scenario and we have boundaries for large parts of land in the Ukraine or in  the Middle East and all over the world – down through history.

If you’re married have you ever had a disagreement about emptying the dishwasher, date night, the TV remote clicker, seat left up, which side of the bed is yours and which side is mine?

If you have kids, who sits where in the kitchen or in the car, who goes to bed when, what time you have to be home, who puts out the garbage. Teenagers who were not part of the making of some covenants fight some of its principles. For example,  we go to church in this family, etc.?

If you have a dog, who walks him or her?

So back when people couldn’t write, there were covenants about all kinds of things.  So too today, there are all kinds of agreements, covenants, between people - many of which are not written down - but they are assumed.

And when broken, there is trouble in Houston or on Route 50 in Maryland and on West Street in Annapolis or Main Street in some town in Alaska. I don't know about you, but I find myself saying of some drivers at times, "You’re supposed to use your blinker."  or "Stay in the right lane if you’re keeping the speed limit, you idiot!"

Is there an agreed upon covenant, with rules like: Pick up after your dog. No loud outside music at 1 in the morning – or no loud inside music at 12 o’clock, midnight  – if you live in an apartment complex with thin walls.

Then there are also the million and one written rules and regulations that are part of society or life with one another.

So we know what covenants are all about.


In Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, as well as most religions we find that there are various covenants.

Here is where we bring God into the picture.

Hey, God, if we do this, this, this, and this, can you promise us good weather.

There’s strength in numbers.  We see this in families. Check out families.  We Smith’s, we O’Brian’s, we Napoli’s, we Jorgensen’s, stick together. We’re family. We’re blood. We're tribe. We're clan.

Read the Bible and see the power of family and clans.

Our blood – our previous DNA – was a sign of family unity.

When large groups of families unite, what do they insist upon to  make group – one?

In primitive people there are blood ceremonies. Blood from all mixed in one cup. In the Bible we hear about animals from the flocks of different families being sacrificed We read about blood from the slain animals are sprinkled on the people, and a gigantic meal follows.

In religious groups there is union by water and wine and ceremony and a common meal.  There is breaking of bread and sharing that together.

In the Book of Exodus, 24, there is mention of a big banquet in which Moses, Aaron and their sons – along with 70 elders of the different tribes - share a common meal together and with God to symbolize their covenant with each other and with God.

In time tribal and common agreements were written down and re-read every year on anniversaries, etc.

We know all this. We go to Mass together. We get together for thanksgiving. We say some prayers.  The family who does all this stays together by doing all this.

We see this when kids start skipping family meals.  We see this when families stop talking to each other. We know this when we see families sitting watching TV with supper in hand.

Every common 4 day  high school retreat I ask the small group I’m, “What is it like in your house at supper time or Sunday when you’re eating?”

If we are good at anthropology and the human condition, we know that getting a baby sitter, so we can have having a date night or a  weekend escape weekend helps a marriage. We know that when we stop talking to each other, and the main voice in a home is on the other side of a cell phone or coming from a TV set.

I am encouraged that on many retreats for young people around the country there is cell phone collection on the opening night of the retreat and they are given back on the way home.  Someone has picked up, we need to receive communion, in order to be in communion with each other.

Almost every baptism I’ve done in the last 5 years, I ask the couple to put their baby or twins on the main altar – put one hand on the baby – and repeat after me, “This is my body, this is my blood, we’re giving our life for you.”

That’s covenant with the baby.

I would suggest for Lent, to make sure you have a good family meal, at least once a week. Meat and agree on that. Then do it. And at that meal, everyone with one hand pointed to their heart and the other hand pointed to each other say out loud, “This is my body, this is my blood, I’m giving my life to you.”

That’s covenant. That’s communion.  Do that and we start to get the Mass.  Do that and we start to get covenant.  Do that and we start to get family.


Covenant unites us to each other and to God.

Covenant get us in touch with our expectations of God and God for us.

And lets close by pointing our index finger to our own heart and the other finger on our other hand towards the others around us and repeat after me: “this is my body. This is my blood. I’m giving my life to you.”
February 22, 2015


If I were a bird,
I’d want to be a hawk
or an eagle and have
all the other birds
scared of me.

If I were a bird,
I’d want to be
a nightingale
or any singing bird
bringing music
to  the neighborhood.

If I were a bird,
I’d want to be an owl,
being wise enough
to know all there is
to know in all the

If I were a bird,
I’d want to be
a bluebird or a
cardinal or a
canary bringing
a bit of color to
someone who
sees life in only
black and white.

If I were a bird
I’d want to be
a bird who travels
thousands and
thousands of miles
knowing there is
much more to see.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2015