Saturday, June 6, 2015

June 6, 2015

SELF TEST  #  16

Some like to stand by the edge.

Some like to stand in the center.

Some like to stand on the right.
Some like to stand on the left.

Some like to take risks.

Some like to stay safe.

Some like to listen.

Some like to talk.

Some like the old.

Some like the new.

Some are open.

Some are closed.

Some are stuck.

Some bend their way out of slavery.

Some know themselves.

Some know others.

Some don’t know themselves.

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2015



The title of my thoughts for this 9th Friday in Ordinary Time is, “The Book of Tobit.”

We read The Book of Tobit as the first reading during the 9th Week in Ordinary Time, every other year.


In the documents of Vatican II, in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, it states that we are to open up, “The treasures of the Bible more lavishly, so that richer fare may be provided for the faithful at the table of God’s Word.” [Chapter II, # 51.]

So non-Catholics can no longer complain that Catholics don’t know or read the Bible.

This is the 50th Anniversary of Vatican II - and the past 50 years there certainly has been some significant changes in Catholicism.

More Catholics reading the Bible certainly has been a significant change. This is not to say, we didn’t before.

With a broad generalization for authority, many Protestants would say they have the Bible - and some would stress private interpretation - and Catholics would stress the Pope - and to follow his and the Church’s teachings.

Since Vatican II there have been in the Catholic Church - Bible study groups - e.g. the Little Rock Arkansas program.  I went to a few conferences during the summer and there were lots of lay people as well as nuns and priests making the program. Catholics and Protestants read lots of books about the Bible, etc. etc. etc.

At Masses we go through the whole Bible every 2 years on weekday Masses and much of the Bible during Sunday Masses.

Priests had to preach on many more readings. Some sermons changed - and were now called Homilies.

I’m sure you have thoughts about all of this - talk to each other.

Catholics use Missalette like The Magnificat  and Give Us This Day - at home and at Mass - and if the sermon is poor, they like the commentaries in those missalettes.


If someone wants to read the Bible, I learned to say, “Start with James.”  If you don’t get James, uh oh!

With computers one can type into Google the name of any book in the Bible and read what comes up.

You’ll get literal and liberal comments and interpretations.

Read a section at a time and read homilies on a text. Like James 1: 13-15.

Take your time and new life will come.


This week - Monday to Saturday - we have The Book of Tobit - chopped up like a dinner on a plate to cut with knife and fork - and chew on.

It’s a strange document - a novel for some - a series of folk tales for others.

I find it fascinating - a guy getting cataracts from bird droppings. A woman who was married to 7 different husbands - all of whom died their wedding night - before consummating the marriage. At the end of that story - there’s a nice marriage story about the 8th marriage - the one that makes it - because the demon of lust is destroyed. It talks about healing with fish oil. Very interesting stuff.


Some didn’t think it should be a book in the Bible. Some did. The Bible from Alexandria - the so call Septuagint has it.  The Bible from Jerusalem doesn’t.

They had at least 4 versions of the story. Fragments of Tobit were found in the Dead Sea Caves. They are in Hebrew.

Some date the book to the 4th century B.C.; some date it to around 180 B.C.

The more research - say as a hobby - the more one learns.


Go for it.

Friday, June 5, 2015

June 5, 2015


When I write a poem
I rewrite it at least 16 times.

Realizing that I like to say,
“Writing is rewriting.”

Then I realized this poem, this
book, called me, is a rewrite.

I’m editing my life stories inside
my mind - to make them fit me.

I’m making me sound better or
worse to myself all my life.

Is that bad? No! Unless I start
to believe my lies to myself.

Maybe the last stage of life
is the real edition: the real me.

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2015

Thursday, June 4, 2015

June 4, 2015


Surprise! God does not have a mouth!

You’re kidding?

No, I’m not.

I  hear God laugh at times
at all the comments people
say God says. This is me now
who's speaking.  I hear God
frustrated - cringe - feel crushed
at all the things we think
God would want to say.

Maybe the solution is to slip
into what someone said of God,
“We are made in the image
and likeness of God.” 

When I hear that,  I hear God 
saying, “Oh my God, are 
you serious? Do they really 
believe that? They got to be


And, I hear God laughing 
at all this and saying,
"Ooops I am God 
and I don't have a mouth,
so I couldn't have said that,
but if you want to be 
my image and likeness,
be silent because 
I am silence. Listen." 

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2015

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

June 3, 2015


As I cross my morning and evening bridge,
on my way to and from work - sometimes
that water to my right - on my way out - 
and that same water to my left - on my way home - it glistens, it gleams, it screams with liquid light - shaking and shaking - watery 
fabric - and that scene becomes my morning prayer: “Lord, let this day be a day of glisten - that I may see you in the eyes of those with whom I'll meet and work! And I know Lord, 
on the way home after a long day - a day 
I didn’t glisten like I’d love to. Work 
sometimes is too tough - too rough, too much. But -  but, but, Lord, I still have 5 minutes 
to glisten again, before I drive up our 
driveway and open up our door and 
announce to my glistening one,  "Honey,
I’m home! Hello! Hi! Missed you."

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2015

Tuesday, June 2, 2015



The title of my homily for this 9 Tuesday in Ordinary Time  is, “Family Fights.”

When we drive down the street - any street - in any town - we can assume that family fights go on from time to time - behind those closed doors.

More or less….

We pray for the less….

We pray people get over their fights, spats, irritations and disagreements …

We pray that forgiveness is on the menu.

We pray that a couple knows whether they have a short fuse or a long fuse - and how to difuse a lit fuse.


When I was a kid there were more boxing matches on TV than today.

If I remember correctly, there used to be Monday Night Fights, Wednesday Night Fights, and Friday Night Fights.

When I was a kid - and my parents were kids - and their parents were  kids - way before TV - generation after generation, families had fights now and then - not scheduled for Monday, Wednesday and Friday - but I’m guessing they are over the same thing - over and over and over again. Déjà vu fights…. About strictness, about lateness, about chores, about not carrying one’s load - about drinking, friends the kids hang out with, etc. etc. etc.

I remember visiting a couple once and in the opening conversation just inside the door, the husband said when the wife went into the kitchen, “By the way, you walked into the middle of a fight. We didn’t plan it, when we invited you over.”  I thought to myself, “Now what do I do?”  Then when he went to the bathroom, she said, “In case you didn’t notice, we’re in the middle of a fight right now.”


I wondered as I was driving home from being in that house, if I would have noticed a fight was going on - if they didn’t tell me.


Flora Davis once wrote, “Almost all married people fight, although many are ashamed to admit it.  Actually a marriage in which no quarreling at all takes place may well be one that is dead or dying from emotional undernourishment. If you care, you probably fight.”

I’ve also read that all couples fight. It’s the making up that makes the marriage work - that is, if folks learn how to make up well.

Now I don’t know if this is true of fights of parents with their kids.

And I don’t know if this is true of fights of parents with adult kids who have married or are graduated and live elsewhere - or have come back to the nest. It’s cheaper.

The Marriage Problem List that made sense to me down through the years was one I noticed in the New York Daily News when I first got out of the seminary. “The three biggest problems in every Marriage are: money, sex and in-laws.”

But not always….

The fight between Tobit and his wife Anna in today’s first reading is about a goat. He gets her goat - by accusing her of stealing the goat. She shoots back with the “holier than thou” label.  I wondered as I read that - how many times that fight and that labeling took place in that marriage.

When I read that, I thought to myself also: “That’s a good idea for a sermon.”


Fighting, nitpicking, setting up for a fight goes on in life. We heard it in the gospel. I wonder if these fights against Jesus - were things these Pharisees and Herodians we heard about in the gospel - showed up their families and in their homes as well. I’ve always noticed much of life is déjà vu  - over and over again -  same basic fight - different situations - different actors. Amen.

June 2, 2015


I was sitting there in an airport waiting 
for my plane. A guy with a great smile 
and a dozen red roses just walked by. 

He stopped to look at the arrival and departure scoreboard. He checked his watch for the exact time - and then sat down - some 10 yards across from me. 

I was sitting there far enough away
to read his novel. A page turner?
A love story? A mystery? Whom was
this woman  he came to catch? Where was
she coming from? Is this their home?

I prefer reading these stories to books
in the airport magazines, books, last
minute gift stores. I am a people reader.
He looked 30. The white tissue paper that
wrapped the red roses was the cover of his novel. Will I be sitting here long enough to read the end of this chapter, this scene? 

He stood up to walk over to double check
ARRIVALS once again. Just then the door
on the other side opened and out came
a crowd of arrivals. Which one was she?

I watched - loving the feeling of the moment on my face. And then he rushed towards the redhead in the wheel chair. He presented her the dozen red roses. 
He got down on both knees to hug 
and kiss her. She couldn’t get up. Wow. What’s that all about? What happened? 
Is this her for life - in a wheelchair?

Wait a minute. How did he get in here? 
He's not a passenger. Are they headed 
for another flight? I sat there watching him wheeling her away - straight down 
the center of the concourse. 

Well, that’s another chapter. And I won’t be able to finish the book. Ugh. Bummer.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2015

Monday, June 1, 2015



The title of my homily for this 9th Monday in Ordinary Time is, “Violence Begets Violence, Peace Begets Peace.”

Today’s readings trigger this reality.

The history of the world can be summed up by the title of Tolstoy’s epic novel, War and Peace.

 It’s everyone’s story. It’s everyone’s novel - but war and peace is not novel. Adam and Eve enjoyed paradise - and walked with God in the cool of the evening - but a while later after the fall, Cain killed his own brother, Abel.

“Violence Begets Violence, Peace Begets Peace.”

I don’t know about you, but I wince when someone picks Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 for one of the readings for a wedding or a funeral.  I like some of the lines, but I don’t like hearing, “There’s a time for war and a time of peace.”


Today’s first reading from Tobit has this wonderful story of Tobit not wanting to eat alone - so he sends his son Tobiah to go out and invite some poor kinsman - an exile - to come and share a big meal with him.

The son goes out and accidentally finds one of their people murdered in the marketplace - strangled.

He runs home and tells his dad. Tobit sprang to his feet - went and found the murdered man - brought the body back to his house and put him in one of his rooms  - so he could bury the man after sunset. Then he washed up - and ate his food in sorrow. After sunset he dug a grave and buried the murdered man.

Today’s first reading ends by Tobit saying, “The neighbors mocked me, saying to one another: ‘He is still not afraid! Once before he was hunted down for execution because of this very thing; yet now that he has scarcely escaped, here he is burying the dead!’”

“Violence Begets Violence, Peace Begets Peace.”

Today’s psalm talks about a good person, “His generosity shall endure forever, Light shines through the darkness for the upright; he is gracious and merciful and just.” Notice the contrast in that comment: darkness vs. generosity.

“Violence Begets Violence, Peace Begets Peace.”

Today’s gospel talks about tenants beating the servants of the vineyard they are renting two times and then killing the owner’s son the third time - then we hear about violence begetting more violence and killing.

And today’s gospel ends with the message that they wanted to kill Jesus because of his messages.

And basically he’s saying, “Violence Begets Violence, Peace Begets Peace.”

Jesus went against the basic human instinct to get back, to push for an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.

Violence makes us blind - and we react back at those whom we think wrongs us.


We know this.  If while driving someone rides up our backside - or beeps at us - or gives us the finger on the road from another car - our blood can start to boil. And then an “uh oh! can follow.

So too with comments and selfishness and disrespect. We do something for another and expect “quid pro quo” but others sometimes don’t do what we cant from them. They don’t do our will on how we want things to go - and sometimes anger knocks on our door or is like a crashing wave hitting our shore.

Down deep we know Jesus’ comments and commands about all this for our own good. Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek - go the extra mile - because that turns the tide against retaliation. When he died on the cross, he said, “Father forgive them, because they don’t know what they are doing.”  That works. It can stop the cycle of violence.

It might take time, a long time, for Jesus’ example to work - but it works according to Jesus.


Speaking of violence, today is the feast of St. Justin the Martyr. He was beheaded, because he followed Christ.

Eventually Christianity conquers. Eventually peace arrives - if we go the way of the Peacemaker, Our Christ.

Notice that the church is beatifying Oscar Romero - who was a martyr - like St. Justin in our time. He called the leaders and the powerful - the military and the land owners - in El Salvador to stop the killing and the violence and and controlling and crushing the poor.


The title of my homily was, “Violence Begets Violence, Peace Begets Peace.”

If you get a chance read Archbishop Romero’s life - or see the movie about him - that is on TV from time to time. Romero had a conversion of heart - moving towards the poor and those pushed to the margins.

That brought about his death - being shot while saying Mass.

El Salvador is in a better place now - I’m sure with some help - from the example of Oscar Romero and Oscar Romero’s death.

We Catholics of this area - celebrate this change in our church - especially with the number of Salvadoran’s in our area - many of whom moved north because of violence begotten in their midst - and the forces that held them in poverty.

May peace take over!  May war disappear.
June 1st, 2015


I discovered God in bread and wine, 
ice cream bought for me and bacon 
and eggs brought to me for breakfast. 
Light and darkness - especially if there 
are stars stuck in the middle of that dark. 

I discovered God in mistakes and failures,
especially sin - better when I heard God
say I understand - but “Don’t be dumb!”,
“Don’t hurt others!”, “Don’t hurt yourself!”
And please, try, try --  try again and again.

I discovered God in mornings - after a
good sleep - seeing parents with kids while
going by swings at the park or teaching
their kids how to ride a bike or hit a
ball or catch a football or shoot a basket.

I’ve discovered God at weddings, boring
Church services, funerals filled with hurt
and tears, seeing silent - but powerful
sunsets - and the sky is filled with red,
orange and spray painted clouds in the West.

I’ve discovered God when I wasn’t looking
for God - at work,  in songs, on back roads,
traffic jams, in conversations with strangers,
sitting next to them on planes - and at times when I pray, but not always. Then there's the 
experience of love in relationships, family, friendships and God in the mix of it all.

And sometimes God says, “Turn the channel”
and I’ll meet you there - maybe, sometimes.”

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2015

Sunday, May 31, 2015



The title of my homily for this Holy Trinity Sunday is, “God for Dummies.”


We have a family statement. It's “There is a God!”

We said it when my mom made Lemon Meringue Pie - and when my father brought home from work a big white box - 2 layers inside - of cookies. He worked for Nabisco - and every once and a while there was this big white box with Oreos, Raisin Cookies, Lorna Doone, and chocolate chip cookies - inside - in long rows.

“There is a God!”

But we  made  that statement the most when we played Rummy - and then when Shanghai Rummy became the game of choice. We’re sitting there getting closer and closer to victory - when someone discards our card and someone else picks it up - because we were not next. Inwardly came the scream, “Hey that’s my card!” That was our last chance to win. We’re dead meat. Then someone picked a joker - and out came our creed and our great act of faith, “There is a God.”

I always loved a story about Carl Jung - the Swiss psychotherapist and psychiatrist. Someone once asked him if he believed in God. His answer: “No.” Then he paused and said, “I don’t believe in God. I know there is a God.”

When I heard that, I said, “That sums up my basic understanding of God.”

I know there is a God.

It has always been obvious to me with every object in the universe.

It there is wood and stone and sky and stars - there is a star and planet maker.

If there is a chair, there is a chair maker.

If I’m sitting or standing here in this church this morning, there is a chair maker and a mom and dad who brought me into this world.

So I never argue with anyone who says, “I don’t believe in God.”

I smile.

So my first statement in this homily on, “God for Dummies” is simply, “There is a God!”

God is the Creator, the Maker, the Putter Togetherer, the Beginner.

Just listen to people. They announce to the world at least 3 times a day: “There is a God.”

Just listen.

I was on one of 3 buses with our high school kids - Juniors - going to and coming back from a retreat house in Malvern, Pennsylvania last week. They were making a 3 day retreat.

I didn’t count the number of, but I heard at least 10 times, the cry, “Oh my God!”

I’ve heard many times in confession, people confessing that they took the name of God in vain. If they are referring to an angry scream at another that God damn them. Okay, that’s in vain - because I don’t think our screams at another can damn another. I don’t think that’s what God is about.

But if they are confessing saying, “Oh my God!” they are not sinning. They are giving God a shout out: for a beautiful sunset - or for a whole flock of birds making better than Blue Angel twists and turns. Or they are mesmerized by a whole crowd of autumn trees in full autumn colors - or they see a near car accident. I sense those are all God moments - screams of joy and cries for God’s protection.

There is a God.

Every dummy should get that.

Just stand there and look into the night sky and look as far as your eyes can see.  Or if there is a TV program that shows the results of a sky probe  from a supersized electronic telescope, watch it. It  tells us how far out that sky goes as of now - and who knows how far out this universe or universes go.

There is a God.

When I saw my mom’s lemon meringue pie and my dad’s cookies, I knew there was a pie maker and a cookie bringer.

So too God the universe maker and creative force.


The next reality in these comments about God for us Dummies is this: If we have chairs in our house and there are benches in this church, we know that chairs exist, but we don’t know what the chair or bench maker is like.

Here is where reason and revelation come in.

Reason tells us there is such a thing as gravity and fat people. We better build sturdy chairs.

Revelation -  when it comes to Religious Thought and Talk often is announced in manuscripts - books - that tell us what God is like.

This is where we move from reason to faith.

This is where we have traditions that are passed down from people with God experiences.

In our time and space - and in our hotel rooms we have not only the Bible - but also the Koran.

In the Jewish and Christian Scriptures we have statements - descriptions - about the meaning of life and of what God is like.

A rabbi at a wedding asked me if I had read the Koran yet. I said, “Nope!”

He said, “You better.”

So I bought a Koran - in English - and I began noticing the words “fire” and “burn”.

Is this God?

I got an orange magic marker and highlighted every time I saw burnings and firings on the pages of  my Koran. It now has lots of orange highlighting in it.

After doing this I began to notice similar destructive comments about the Jewish-Christian God in our Bible.

Uh oh!

Is that us - our projections on God - that we want God to wipe out those we don’t like?

I asked, “What is our God like?”

Which description is God.


Today is Holy Trinity Sunday.

Last night in doing some homework on the Trinity  for a sermon for today,  I kept reading that Christians are not that hot in explaining what their belief in the Holy Trinity consists in. I read that if someone who isn’t a Christian - asks Christian or a Catholic what they believe in - when it comes to the Trinity - they mangle their thoughts.

Hence the title of my homily was going to be “The Holy Trinity for Dummies.”  I decided to start with: “God for Dummies.”

The first statement about the Trinity would be to state that we Christians believe that God is three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - three persons yet one God.

Or when questioned we can simply make the Sign of the Cross: “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

So we Christians know that first truth: “

We believe that this God is One - but is 3 Persons.  

I noticed that those who are monotheists - one God people - that we give praise and glory to this God of ours each day.

In Islam we can find out that they are asked to pray 5 times a day: dawn, midday, afternoon, sunset and then sunset.”

For example, here’s a typical morning prayer: “Allah is the Greatest!”

Allah is their name for God. It’s close to the Jewish word, “El” or “Elohim” for God.

Then chant in Arabic, “Praise and glory be to You, O Allah. Blessed be Your Name, exalted be Your Majesty and Glory. There is no God but You.”

A Jewish person might  as a morning prayer recite the Shema. “Hear, O Israel the Lord- is our God.” Then in an overtone the individual or the congregation will pray, “Hear, O Israel, the L-rd is our G-d, the L-rd is One.”
Then the community will  recite the following verse in an undertone:
“Blessed be the name of the glory of His kingdom forever and ever.”

Notice that we Christians can say and pray every morning: “Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be world without end. Amen.” And we could say it every night before going to sleep and every morning after waking up.

When we’re looking at all this and speaking about all this, know that we’re in the area of revelation and faith.

In mentioning this to others, we can say, we all are monotheists, but notice that we Christians see the One God as a Trinity of Persons.

We can add that when we state our beliefs we often use our creeds. We can use words from our creeds. “I believe in God the Father…. I believe in Jesus Christ his Son…. I believe in the Holy Spirit.”

We can add that we know what God is like - especially from Christ - what he tells us about his Father and his Spirit.

In Christ becoming flesh, we  Christians are blessed to discover stuff about the Carpenter and the Baker - the chair maker and the bread baker.

It’s Christ.

It’s Jesus of Nazareth.

We hear about him every Sunday at Mass in the gospels and from Paul.


Hopefully two things happen when we meet/ discover Jesus Christ.

We say, “Oh my God.”

And we say, “There is a God.”

For starters, that’s enough for us dummies.


May 31, 2015


Was it when God said,
“Let us make man in our own
image and likeness…”
that we got our first hint
that God is a Trinity?

Or was it when God said,
“It’s not good to be alone?” that
we got our first hint of the Trinity?
And so we make friendships,
get married and have babies.

When we read the scriptures
it seems that God certainly
is not alone or a loner.

Who wants to be alone?
Who wants to eat alone?
God certainly doesn’t and
we don’t either. We go
twogether into the ark, to
travel  and go here and there,
into our homes, into our world -
into its places and spaces.

So are all these meals that Jesus 
went to - all part of God’s compulsion 
to never be alone - to always be more
than 1 - more than 2 - to be 3 at least 
for starters? Amen. Amen. Amen.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2015