Friday, March 6, 2015

March 6, 2015


Everyone has a religion,
something or someone
they want to wrap their life,
their nights and days around.

Everyone has a God
that they worship and adore:
the dollar, the bottle,
the one they gladly give their Sundays
and often the rest of the week to.

Everyone has their meanings,
their reasons for living,
their songs and their movies,
their texts, their scriptures,
chapter and verse.

Everyone has their pope,
their authority, their rock,
their traditions - they might 
not know it, but they have them.

Everyone has a love,
themselves, herself, himself,
someone or something.

Everyone has gifts, wealth,
no matter who they are,
or where they are.

Everyone has a spin around.
What's your name for your God?
Enjoy your Merry-Go-Round -
even if it's broken or your fix it.

© Andy Costello, Reflections
March 5, 2014


The painter starts with still life:
apples, bananas, peaches,
pears, plums. Then they move
onto flowers, mountains, oceans,
lakes, and then finally, you and me.
We’re into Genesis – beginnings.
Take your time – soon there will be
trouble in paradise and soon you’ll
hear for sure – what paradise is.

© Andy Costello, Reflections.
March 4, 2015


Break through
the boundaries
of draught,
locked skies,
missing cloud sky,
inactive space.

Pour down upon us, O Lord,
rain, rain,
water, water,
so we can live,
so we can grow,
so we can know you,
Lord, above and below
And deep in
the living waters.

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2015

Tuesday, March 3, 2015



The title of my homily for this Tuesday in the Second Week in Lent is, “Sometimes, It All Depends on How We Say It!”

Many times when I read the scriptures, I find myself wincing.

For example, in today’s first reading from Isaiah 1:20, Isaiah has God saying, “But if you refuse and resist, the sword shall consume you….”

To me – evidently not to Isaiah – and others - God is going destroy, earthquake, zap people. I had the same experience when reading the Koran – there God is going to burn, burn, burn.

I wish the author would say his words – with blue cheese or soft melted butter – instead of with peppers and hot sauce – swords and stones.

I try to keep in mind the old saying, “A spoonful of honey will catch more flies than a barrel of vinegar.


When I hear some people communicating with those around them, at times I hope they would get the message from the old story about the two brothers and the cat.

Once upon time there were two bachelor brothers. One brother lived with mom who was  bedridden and he did everything for her. The other brother was a salesman. At least once a month – he’d be on the road – so he would bring his cat over to the house of his brother – the one who lived with mom in her old age –and this other brother would take care of the cat. – while his brother was away.

Every night – whenever he was away – he’d call his brother and ask how the cat and how mom were doing.

So on the first night of his trip from Maryland to Los Angeles he calls and says to his brother,  “How’s my cat doing?”

The brother in  Maryland says, “The cat died.”

Big pause.

Then the brother in Los Angeles says, “You don’t say  it like that.”

“Oh!  How should I say it?”

The brother in Los Angeles said, “Well, the first night and the first call you say, ‘The cat went up on the roof.’”


Then the brother in Los Angeles continues, “Then the next night I call you, you say that the cat fell.” Then the next night I call you say, “The cat is not doing that well. Then the next night I call you say, ‘The cat is struggling.’  Then the next night when I call you calmly say, ‘The cat has passed away. Sorry!’”

“Oh,” says the brother in Maryland.”

Then the brother in Los Angeles says, “By the way, how’s mom?”

The brother in Maryland pauses a bit and then says, “Mom’s up on the roof.”


There’s different ways of saying what we want to say.

Wouldn’t it be great if we spoke with better respect and kindness to each other?

We’ve all noticed folks who are grouchers or complainers or downright abrasive when it come to how they talk to waiters or waitresses,

Wouldn’t it be nice if a husband and wife were having a conversation on the way to church – and one says to the other, “I was wondering about our kids. Maybe when they come next month – we don’t nag them about going to Church or what have you. Maybe we buy great bagels and make them a super breakfast and say nothing about going to church.  Maybe they pick up the beauty of the Mass from us. Amen
March 3, 2015

In a wonderful eulogy by her son,
Grandma, when she died, was
described as an old frying pan.
She was solid – black iron solid.
She sizzled and sang or hummed
in her kitchen like bacon cooking.
Her perfume was the scent of eggs
and fried sliced potatoes. Grandma
was as essential as a kitchen is to
a home, as essential as a 75 year old
frying pan. That was our grandma.

© Andy Costello, Reflections

Monday, March 2, 2015



The title of my homily for Monday in the Second Week of Lent is, “How Do You Measure?”

One of life’s most basic realities is measuring.

We spend much of our life measuring life – measuring things, experiences, as well as one another.


If we did an autopsy on a brain, we would see 1 thousand questions for starters – and then thousands more. We’re asking questions all the time – many of which are an appeal to what’s good and how do we measure that?

·       What’s a good day?
·       Who’s a good person?
·       What’s a good meal?
·       What makes us happy?
·       How much should we forgive?
·       What’s a great movie?
·       What’s a great song?
·       What’s a great work of art?
·       What’s a good sermon?
·       What’s a good book?
·       What’s the best use of my time?
·       How much should I spend on a car?
·       Who’s a good doctor around here?
·       What makes a great parish?
·       What’s a good school?
·       What makes a good marriage?
·       What’s stupid?
·       Who determines ugly?
·       What’s a generous tip?
·       What determines a mortal sin – that is some              behavior or thinking that can destroy us?

And on and on and on.


Today’s two readings, especially today’s gospel, triggered my homily question for today: “How Do You Measure?”

I prefer today’s gospel – when it comes to measuring – how to behave, how to give, how to judge.

We think Pope Francis as someone who is user friendly. We see him as a pope who is a breath of fresh air for our church. Then we consider the pastor of our parish when we were in high school, whose name was Father Awful Stricter. Compared to Pope Francis, Father Awful was someone to avoid at all costs.

We compare both to each other and then both to Jesus in today’s gospel.

I don’t think anyone would be scared to go to Jesus for confession – or to Pope Francis.

If the Jesus in today’s gospel is the real Jesus – so too if the Jesus we meet in Luke 15 is the real Jesus,  I assume Pope Francis is like Jesus and hopefully that’s the same story for all of us.

I like Jesus’ way of measuring – that we find in today’s gospel.

Jesus must have seen some merchant in the market place. The guy was not stingy.  If you bought 5 pounds of wheat – you actually got at least 10 pounds – because he kept on pouring more and more into your sack – and pushing more and more into your request.

I wonder if he learned that’s the way to sell your stuff – and get many a satisfied customer.

As we heard in today’s gospel, in giving we receive. Give a lot and you get a lot of customers.


I think of two jokes when I heard today’s gospel about measuring.

Both jokes are about one armed men.

Did you hear about the one armed fishermen who said he caught a fish this big? He put out one arm obviously.

Did you hear about the one armed golfer who missed a putt by this much. He put out one are to show how far he came to getting the ball into the cup.

I hear Jesus putting out one arm and saying this is how much I forgive you and love you understand you.

How do you measure a good group of people at Mass?  It’s one filled with people who laugh at my jokes.
March 2, 2015


Listen to yourself the next time someone doesn’t listen to you – when you inwardly complaining because you weren’t being heard. .

Everyone has had that experience!

We’re talking here about yawns.

We’re talking here about the other looking at their watch or the clock  on the wall or at the door or over our shoulder – while we’re talking.

We’re talking here about being cut off by another.  

We’re talking here of unreturned phone calls.

And when it happens with the same person too many times, in deja vu situations, frustration roams the corridors of our mind.

We wonder if we should just tell another whom we’re connected with what we’re feeling, what we wondering. Maybe we should just say, “Well, I guess that’s it.  I guess this is how relationships end.”

And maybe the other really wants to say: “Disappear. You’re really not that interesting to me anymore. I’m bored with you.”

If that’s the case, the nothing is less painful than the something.

To listen to another is difficult.

To listen to another is to believe that another has something to say that is worth hearing.

To listen to another is to empty ourselves.

Speaking to another is taking a chance.

Speaking and listening are essential for communion.

To communicate is to take and eat, to digest another, their thoughts and feelings, to be invited by them into their upper room.

To communicate is to believe another matters.

It’s a willingness to walk with them, to talk with them, in the cool of the evening in the garden of their delights or to pray with them in their agony in the garden,  to help them take the cup and stay awake with them in their darkest hours.

Until we begin to do this, how can we pray, how can we receive communion how can we know what’s the matter or what matters.

When we do this, we have begun to pray, we have begun to listen,
we have begun to matter to each other.

Hello. How are you? Is anything the matter?

I suppose those are the first questions to ask another who doesn’t seem to be listening.

© Andy Costello, Reflections

Sunday, March 1, 2015


[This is a made-up  story  for the Kids’ Mass for this Second Sunday in Lent – Year B. The gospel features the story of the Transfiguration – so my message is about getting big – only to discover moments that can transfigure us and we then realize we’re so small. There is always something bigger – someone bigger – and in the presence of THE BIGGEST BIG – our God – we can become humble and sense God in the amazement of that experience.]

He was the oldest brother.

He was #1 of three brothers.

The  names of the three brothers were Peter, James and John.

Those were their formal names – the ones the teachers in school  used when calling on them.

But in the playground – during sports – having fun – everyone called them, Pete, Jim and Jack.

Without getting too far ahead of myself in telling you their story, let me say this: by the time Peter or Pete – the oldest - graduated from college – the three brothers were nicknamed, Big, Bigger, and  Biggest.

Pete – because he was the oldest and first - he became a big guy first and was called “Big Pete”.

Then he was simply called, “Big”. The Pete part of his name was dropped – because the nickname “Big” fit him perfectly. By doing that, people didn’t have to repeat the name “Pete” – all the time.

And Big was big. He made the high school varsity football team – as a freshman.

He was quick. He was fast. He was good.

For the first time in many years, the team had a winning record – 6 and 4 for the season.

Big wasn’t the best player on the field –  as a freshman – but he was close to that.

The coach began seeing possibilities – because Big made some big plays that first winning season in a long time.

The 3 brothers, Pete, Jim and Jack – were like Irish Triplets – arriving on this planet – 3 years in a row – each born in August 1, 2, and 3 - and in that order. Talk about the Big Bang Theory.

Jim and Jack – his brothers - as elementary school kids – went to every home football game. When they saw their big brother – out there on the field – they knew their goal in life – their future in high school – and then maybe even college and maybe after that, the pro’s - was right there on the football field.

For his second season of high school football,  Pete bulked up – really becoming big – ready for an even better  football season. He lifted weights big time after his freshman year of varsity football.  The coach seeing him that late August before his sophomore season told him, “We’re moving you up to middle linebacker for this season.”

His next brother Jim tried out for the varsity team as a freshman – and surprise – he too looked good – very good – and he too made the varsity team.  At first he didn’t start – but when the starting left defensive back broke his wrist – in went Jim – and Jim never came out.

Attendance at home games picked up when word got out, “You should see these two great brothers – same team – both really developing.”

They made the semi-finals that year with a 7 and 3 record.

During the 3rd game that season, the coach spotted the 3rd brother – Jack off to the side – and asked someone, “What year in grammar school is Pete’s youngest brother?”  They told him,  “He’ll be here in high school next year.”

The coach began to dream.

Yep, Jack too made the varsity team as a freshman. Yep, Jack was a big guy. In fact, people were saying that he might become the biggest of the 3 brothers.

And he did – but not yet. That didn’t happen till all three were in the same college – on the same team - Division One football.

Back to high school. In Big’s Senior Year – with Big as middle linebacker  - with Jim as left linebacker  and Jack as right linebacker – the school took the state championship. 

If you have ever driven into a small town in the Midwest, you know that signs of championship seasons stand there on the edge of small towns in and out of town. That town still has the  sign of that championship season when three brothers helped win it all.

Looking back – after all these years, everyone who knew them – knew them not as Pete, Jim and Jack, but as, “Big, Bigger and Biggest.”

In college – in the same state college together – all three became All-American. Unfortunately – because of the draft – Pete, Jim and Jack ended up on different pro-teams.

In college, quarterbacks, running backs, the offensive line of every college team they played - started to hear from coaches and writers and fans, “Wait till you see the team you’re playing this coming weekend. “The 3 Brothers, known as Big, Bigger and Biggest are going to be coming at you – all game. Be ready.  Be prepared.  Be careful.”

Their mom and dad took all this in with quiet pride and quiet joy. They were a farm family. They were the ones who inherit the earth. They were part of what made the mid-west as well as America great. They were extremely grateful for being blessed with 3 wonderful sons.

A lot of this was out there on the stage – on the playing fields of life.

What nobody knew was what was happening in the home and inside the minds of these 3 brothers - and their parents.

The bigger they got, the smaller the other two brothers became.

Every August, it was a big day – with lots of noise – when each brother got measured – on their birthday as their height was marked on the doorway of the boys  3 bed bedroom.

Surprise Jim became taller than Pete and then Jack was taller than Jim.

But Pete was still “Big” as in “Big Pete”. Then there was the moment – the birthday - that Jim started to get called, “Bigger” – because in the measurement moment – he was now the biggest of the brothers. Then the following year, Jack became the biggest in the family and inherited the name, “Biggest” Why change a person’s nick name in mid-stream?

What is big? What is height? What is size? What is greatness?

In using those three words - big, bigger and biggest - what are we talking about?  What are we measuring?

Growth? Size? Greatness? Academics? Bank account Impact? Progress? What are we talking about?

Life has its moments – its transfiguring moments. 

These are the moments we can grow. These are the moments we can change.

How we deal with these key moments is how we can become quicker, wiser and experienced.

How we deal with these key moments is how we can become humble and down to earth and laugh at life.  

They can also push us into becoming a conversation bully or a control person - someone who is obnoxious or mean or what have you.

Someone who has more than we have or is bigger than we are - are often the moment where we have the opportunity for transfiguration's.

Someone surpassing us on the football field – or classroom – or family – or draft choice – or salary – or car – or house – can be a powerful moment of growth.

So in these moments, first comes the feeling of humility – and “uh oh ness” – and all that.

These 3 brothers, Peter, James, and John, or Pete, Jim, and Jack, or Big, Bigger and Biggest – celebrated these life moments  - and their parents smile because their three sons – were such nice kids – handled their life gift from God well. Their 3 sons changed and transfigured the lives of their parents as well – giving them the meaning of their lives.

And in time and secretly these 3 brothers nick-named themselves as Small, Smaller and Smallest.

When they got together for Thanksgiving and Family Weddings – and Funerals -  after their careers in pro football – they felt great joy in all their learning about life.

They would always raise their beers to mom and dad – and yell out together, “To mom and dad – to family – to Brothers.”

And then they would always stand up – pull mom and dad into their center -  and yell to everyone - "Paparazzi! Get out your cameras,  “To mom and dad – here they are - the biggest and best parents in the world.”

March 1, 2015


When young,
now and then, 
climb mountains,
get to lakes,
travel to the sea
taste salt water taffy.

When old,
you’ll then have
plenty to see
while sitting
on porches
in a rocking chair.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2015