Saturday, June 13, 2015



The title of my homily for this 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time, B, is “The Importance of Afterwards.”

One of life’s greatest blessings is afterwards.

It can also be one of life’s greatest curses: afterwards.

I prefer the positive to the negative - hope to fear - blessings more than the curse - dreams more than nightmares - great memories over arthritis.


Today’s readings trigger this thought of afterwards.

The first reading from the prophet Ezekiel talks about a small cutting or shoot from the top of a cedar tree - being cut - and then being planted on a high mountain and in time - afterwards - it puts forth branches and becomes a majestic cedar tree.

The second reading from St. Paul’s 2nd Letter to the Corinthians talks about walking by faith - not by sight. We don’t see the future, but we still walk towards the afterwards by faith - in hopes of a great harvest.

The gospel talks about planting seed. When we plant seed, we plant with hope - with a vision of the afterwards: a field full of wheat - a vineyard full of delicious grapes - a table with wonderful  bread and wine. 

We also hear in today’s gospel, Jesus telling us about a mustard seed being the smallest of seeds - but afterwards it becomes a large mustard plant - with large branches - with birds enjoying the shade under those leaves.

And hot dog! Hot dogs taste much better with good mustard.


Which moves you more - a picture of a baby or a picture of 28 people - a family -  on a back porch steps - celebrating their grandparents - 50th Wedding Anniversary - and all are smiles.

Which moves you more - pushing and politicking and protesting for a great playground in a neighborhood without any - or three years afterwards seeing it packed with kids - on swings - on climbing steps - a sand box - running paths and parents talking with each other off to the side?

Which moves you more - learning how to knit or crochet or sew or coming to the last stich of a finished blanket or quilt or needlepoint?

Which moves you more - bringing your kid to the first day of kindergarten or  clapping for your kid as he or she finishes college?

Seeing the afterwards - the aftermath - is often a great feeling. Tasting the aftertaste is often tastier than the first sip.

I love to see a crowd of people with aprons on - tiredness on their faces - sweat half circles on their t-shirts in the armpits - sitting in a parish hall - laughing - somewhat slumped over from a good tiredness - after the dinner they served is finished and all have gone home happy - but this gang is still there - happier - even though they know there will be still some cleanup - after pulling off a great parish celebration.


Afterwards has its rewards - and delicious aftertaste.

It can also lead to the bitter and to a backpack of regrets on one’s back.

The reason for the better or the bitter - is often found in the input or lack of input.

I remember when playing basketball in high school. I was very far from the best - but I know I would practice hundreds of shots from the point where the foul line hits the curve of the paint. I’d shoot 100 practice shots on the right side and then I’d practice 100 shots on the left side - and repeat that depending on how much time I had. Then in a game that’s the spot where I would head for a quick 2 pointer jump shot. And I would smile if it went in.

I love the Larry Bird story about him being the hardest worker on the Boston Celtics. When Bird was playing, I heard about a rookie who had told  this from his coach in college. So when he went to play in the Boston Garden for the first time, he went very early - and there was no Larry Bird.  He sat there disappointed. Then sitting there he heard, “Bump, bump, bump, bump, bump.” Someone was running around way on the top of the Boston Garden - around and around and around.  Sure enough, the rookie discovered it was Larry Bird when he came down to the court to start doing his practice shots - before the rest of the team arrived.

I remember in baseball I would get a tennis ball and during class or boring this or that, I would squeeze that tennis ball over and over and over again - so as to be a good wrist hitter. I was a slow runner - but I hit above average for singles up the middle - or to just over the infield - to left or right field depending on the pitch - inside or out.

So too in Latin - I would write words out on scrap paper - over and over and over again - till they were me. I forgot that I did that - till someone reminded me of that recently. I smiled when I heard that.

I remember when I worked in a retreat house in New Jersey on the ocean and a big storm ripped the whole boardwalk apart. I reset and rearranged the foundation to get it right - and then nailed that down. Then I laid the ripped off boards down one by one  - and I found myself for about 4 months - every afternoon - at 4 PM - laying board by board on the frame foundation. As I banged new nails into those boards I would be saying to myself, “Board by board the boardwalk is built.”

So too in reading a book or writing a book, “Page by page the book is read.” “Page by page, the book is written.”

I’ve planted lots of grass seed in my time - having been a lawn man in the seminary for 10 years. Jesus says in today’s gospel “This is how the kingdom of God is; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and through it all the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come.”

 I don’t know how grass seed works, but I found out, if you want grass, you have to do the work - and plant the seed - and make sure it’s watered.

However, Father Joe Krastel was telling me the other day about one of our priests in Denver. He planted grass seed - lots of grass seed - but he wasn’t getting a lawn. The guy got changed. A new guy came and he heard that grass wasn’t growing in their yard.  He contacted the local department of agriculture and asked, “What kind of grass seed grows here in Denver and what kind doesn’t?”  He got the right kind of grass seed and when the former pastor came back he saw the lawn and asked, “How did you get grass to grow in the back yard?” and the other guy said, “You gotta get the right seed.”

I didn’t know that - but I do now.

There are mysteries in life - and there are things we can learn about life.

I love the Jesuit principle of discernment from St. Ignatius. If something works, more; if something flops, less.”

Ignatius would add, “If you think about it, sometimes we curse the difficult, like exercise - but when we do some difficult things, looking back, afterwards, we realize hard work works, and laziness doesn’t.”

So too raising kids. So too a marriage. So too relationships. So too getting an education. So too keeping up a house. So too health.

I have often heard people say, “Half of marriages break up.”

I have also heard, “Check out why some marriages make it and why some marriages fail.”

I have heard that the 3 most important rules for a marriage to work are, “Communication, communication, communication.”

I’ve heard that Father Patrick Peyton was right, “The family that prays together, stays together.”

I’ve also seen families where so called “prayer” drives people away from true prayer and our true God.

Practice makes permanent, so a team or a family or a marriage needs to have good practices.

How many people who planted seed or a tree - ruined the plants by overwatering?

How many people hated prayer and religion, because of overprayer.


The title of my homily is, “Afterwards.”

Yes, there are mysteries.

Yes, sometimes there is luck.

Yes, sometimes kids turn out bad, even though we gave it our best shot.

But in general, if we’ve lived enough life, afterwards we’ll  know that hard work and doing life with a smile and love, works. Amen.

This week in preparing for a 50th Anniversary, I’ve been looking at my life.

In this homily I’ve done just that on this issue of life results and realize now - afterwards - that I have been blessed.

I suggest you do the same.

June 13, 2015


Long before we hear the word, “covenant”,
long before we hear the word, “contracts,”
we have them - that our dad will be there
this evening - that mom or grandma will be
there after the game or practice to take us
home and  if we hint, hint, at times they 
will bring us and our best friend for ice cream.
We know down deep that our mom and dad -
are a lean against - especially when scary
is in the air - that they are like those enormous
black painted iron anchors - with black
chains included. And when that doesn’t
happen - no matter what the name of our
ship is - it doesn’t matter. It’s called,
“Disappointment.” And when some preacher
or religion teacher talks about covenants
with God, we don’t get it, we won’t get it,
because we didn’t experience the primary
covenants that were not drafted in our home.

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2015

Friday, June 12, 2015

June 12, 2015


After a while,
nothing is what
we thought
it would be.

After a while,
no one is who
we thought
they would be.

After a long while
when it comes to us,
we find out it takes twice
the amount of time for
ourselves to know ourselves.

© Andrew Costello, St. Mary’s 2015

Thursday, June 11, 2015

June 11, 2015


Compromise can be a crusher -
because now - not only I don’t
get to do everything I wanted,
but I have to live with the idea of having
to do some of the things you wanted.

Compromise can be a pleasure -
because now - not only do I get
to do some of things you wanted,
but I also get a chance to do
some of things I wanted.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2015

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

June 10, 2015


I read somewhere that it was a significant moment - a significant day - in our evolution 
as humans - when people stopped along
the road to bury our dead.

Hunters and gatherers - way, way, way
back in time would be moving along paths 
when one of our relatives from - way, way
back in time, would die and family and 
relatives were so hurt by the loss of that 
loved one - that  they would dig a grave - or find a cave - to bury a dead one.

Then they said some kind of prayer and performed some sort of a ceremony. 
People would to cry together - feel together - and then bury a loved one - and then
leave some kind of a marker at the spot 
where they buried a loved one.

The first time that happened - did those 
people still feel the loss of that loved one 
the following year - or whenever they went 
by that sacred place. Who came up with
the idea of the first calendar?

Does everyone have a marker - a calendar -
a way to rememberwhen a baby was born, 
when folks got married, when folks died?
Did they say, “You were born at the time 
of the first snow or in the hot summer or 
when the birds reappeared in the sky?

Who was the first person to say, “Mark your calendars?”

Do we all remember when we got an award - when we were recognized - when we retired - when we graduated - when our name was 
called out and everyone clapped - and folks came up to us afterwards and we were congratulated.

Do we thank God for our evolution? Do we cry when we hear about people who are not noticed - not acknowledged nor recognized.
Do we do enough to support one another - give a shout out at special moments  - that get marked in the human calendar in our brain. Amen.
June 9, 2015


Hey Turkey,
doubts ain’t bad.
They can get us to communicate.
They can get us to reconsider.
They can get us to gain reassurance.
They can keep us humble. 
They can help us realize there are others
on this planet besides ourselves.
They can also help us to realize 
there is a God and it’s not smart 
to try to go it alone.

© Andy Costello, Revelations 2015

Tuesday, June 9, 2015



The title of my homily for this 10 Tuesday in Ordinary Time is, “Yes, No.”

A great principle to work for is the ability to speak with clear thinking. A good place to start is to work towards being able to say, “yes” or “no” depending on whether I want to say “yes” or “no.”

This coming Saturday we’ll hear Jesus saying in the Gospel reading from Matthew 5: 37, “Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more is from the evil one.”  That’s one of those key teachings we find in the Sermon on the Mount - which we’re listening to these three weeks.

We have the power of choice.

Pythagoras, remember him from Geometry said, "The oldest, shortest words - 'yes' and 'no' - are those that require the most thought."

Eleanor Roosevelt said, "Never allow a person to tell you 'no' who doesn't have the power to say 'yes.'"


Today’s first reading - from 2nd Corinthians 1: 18-22 - has some comments about Jesus being a “YES” and not a “No.”

A good homily thought would be to stress the importance of making the “Yes Prayer.”  The Yes Prayer is to come into the presence of God and simply say, “Yes!” We can think deeply about God's urges in our life and say 3, 10 or use a whole rosary beads to say our "YES" to God.

Or we can say “Amen!”

In the scriptures, “Amen” is another word for “Yes”.


I have a book I’ve been working on for years now. I have to say “Yes” I’ll get it done - but I keep on putting it off. Not a secret of happiness.

Eric Bern once summed it all up this way: “The secret of happiness is the ability to say 3 words, “Yes, No and Wow.”

He added, “The secret of unhappiness is saying these 3 words, “If only and Maybe.”

We don’t have to read a book to know this wisdom.

Yet, in the meanwhile I keep saying, “If only I had time to finish that book.”  “Maybe some day I get the energy to get it done.”


In the meanwhile I’m rushing around doing nothing and missing all the “Wow’s” that surround me - especially in the Spring - especially today.


Monday, June 8, 2015



The title of my homily for this 10th Monday in Ordinary Time  is, “Mercy and Encouragement.”


Our pope, Francis, is off on the theme of Mercy.

He’s proclaiming an upcoming year of mercy. It will begin this December 8, 2015  and go till November 20, 2016.

He’s announcing it, pushing it, proclaiming it. He’ll be calling us to show mercy to each other and accept mercy, forgiveness, reconciliation with ourselves and others.


In a homily on March 17th, 2013, Pope Francis used the image of a stick.

He preached the following: “I think we too are the people who, on the one hand, want to listen to Jesus, but on the other hand, at times, like to find a stick to beat others with, to condemn others. And Jesus has this message for us: mercy. I think — and I say it with humility — that this is the Lord's most powerful message: mercy.

Translation: “Put down your sticks - we could add ‘stones’ and stop beating on others as well as ourselves.”

I finished a Friday 12:10 Mass here at St. John Neumann’s a few years ago and there were about 20 women in Seelos Hall with about 50 little kids. I noticed there were about 25 little girls and they were playing together with dolls and little carriages. There were 25 boys and they were outside on the lawn there - all the boys had sticks and they were dueling - and fighting each other with sticks.

It reminded me of something my niece Patty told me about her two boys. Boys will be boys will be boys all the time. You can try to keep toy guns and tanks and bomber planes away for them, but they’ll make guns out of peanut butter sandwiches and shoot at each other.

Mercy is putting down the guns and the gossip and active and passive aggression we have towards each other and ourselves.

That’s mercy. If we put a whole year towards doing that - we will be evangelizing the world.

Will that work? Time will tell.


Back in 1975 Pope Paul VI came out with an enclyclical on Evangelization  - Evangelii Nuntianidi. Announcing peace to the world.  We were told over and over and over again - to be evangelizers.

To be honest, I never really got it.

And I’ve been hearing the words, “New Evangelization” ever since and I still don’t get it.

Okay,  I get it, but I don’t get it.

I don’t think it’s a good marketing of Christianity - using this big word “evangelization”.

I think a shorter more common word works much better. For example this year we are going to stress “Mercy”. Be merciful to each other for this year.

It would be like having a year of faith or hope or charity.

I think one short common word works better.

So come next December 8th, 2015,  have mercy towards folks you live with and deal with till November 20, 2016.

Try it.


In the meanwhile, the title of this homily is “Encouragement.”

Ooops! I’m contradicting myself. Encouragement.

Today we begin the It’s not me….

Thought: this week show encouragement towards the people in your life.

See if it works for a week.

I say this because in today’s first reading the word, “Encouragment” is used 8 times in 7 verses. In Greek the word is “PARAKLESIS”

I was at Genesis yesterday at Milkshake Lane - off Forest Drive. I signed in my name at the desk at 12:45 - and saw 4 people from the parish.

All 4 thanked me for the visit.

I get back to the sign in book at 3:12 and I couldn’t find my name to mark when I was leaving. Surprise there were 3 pages after my name. All kinds of others were visiting others.

That’s encouragement - so too a phone call, so too an e-mail, so too a Get Well Card.

So too going to a kids game. So too playing cards with kids. So too encouraging a person who is having a tough time with a marriage and on and on and on.

Sir Winston Churchill was off on Courage - saying, “Without courage, all other virtues lose their meaning.”

Wasn’t that his job all through World War II when England and London were being bombed all night long?


It takes courage to be an encourager.

Try it for a week - and then try another virtue for another week, That will give you a hint, whether  you can hold a stress for a week. You - building strength for a whole year of mercy.
June 8, 2015


It’s not me…. 
It’s quite a relief 
to find out it’s not me 
when I thought it was me. 
Luckily I asked someone 
what I was doing wrong
when it came to him.
And this person said,
“It’s not you.
That’s the way
he is with everyone.”
“Wow! Phew!”
That’s a wonderful,
“Wow!” and “Phew!”
"Oooopps! I realized
how sad it must be 
to be this guy."

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2015

Sunday, June 7, 2015



The title of my homily is, “Body of Christ - Amen. Blood of Christ - Amen.”

Today we’re celebrating the great feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.

Obviously, we should be doing some deep thinking and reflecting upon this great reality and mystery  in our faith.

We can be in Holy Communion with Christ - someone who lived some 2000 years ago. 

Moreover, we believe Christ is God  - in the Trinity. Our God is one God - 3 persons. 

These are amazing beliefs.


Years and years ago - maybe in the early 1980’s - I’m driving down a road in Palmyra, New York and I spot a Mormon Museum or Visitors center off to my right. I stop. I go in. I’m wearing a T-shirt and while walking about someone offers me a guided tour.

I say, “Yes” and all kinds of things are shown me and told me about the Mormon Religion.

After the tour - I’m on the road again - heading for Webster, New York where I was going to preach a Parish Mission for a week.

Boom! It hits me. I say, “Holy Cow, people believe what I just heard.”

Boom! On top of that, it hits me, “If I told people who never believed in Christianity and Catholicism, what we believe in, would they have the same thoughts and reaction I  had about Mormonism - or many religions?”

If I told them about Jesus Christ being both human and divine, about the miracles of Jesus - the virgin birth, that we believe that Jesus Christ is God and we can eat him in the bread, drink him in the wine - and that bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ - in our Mass -  what would be their reaction?

Yes that’s a central belief in Catholicism - in our understanding of what it means to be a Christian.

In preparing this homily, I looked up Mormonism
on line and found some amazing beliefs.

I don’t believe there are people living on the moon and they are tall - many of them 7 feet tall or more. I don’t believe there are people living on the sun. [Journal of Discourses, Vol. 13, p. 217]

I don't believe that  "The Garden of Eden was in Missouri when Adam and Eve were kicked out.”

I don't want to make fun of other's beliefs -especially from the pulpit. What I'm talking about is my experience on the road from Palmyra, New York to Webster, New York.

I'm talking about my experience of wondering what others might think in hearing about Catholic teachings - especially our belief in what happens in our Mass - with the changing of bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ. 


Today we're celebrating the feast of "The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ."

So we have appropriate readings for this feast.

In this first reading we have Moses sending young men of the Israelites to sacrifice young bulls as peace offerings to the Lord. Then Moses takes the blood from these sacrifices and puts half of the blood into large bowls and the other half of the blood was splashed on the altar. Then he sprinkled blood on people saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words of his.”

What would it be like experiencing that? What would that feel like? We know what it’s like to be sprinkled with Holy Water. What would blood be like? Oooh!.

And today’s gospel brings us into the upper room where Jesus takes bread - unleavened bread - and blesses it, breaks it, and says, “Take it; this is my body.”  Then he took a cup with wine in it, gave thanks and says, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.”

Every once and a while that should be hitting us - and hitting us big time.

When was the last time that overwhelmed us?

Today when you are coming up the aisle for communion - walk mindfully. Receive with reverence and amazement.

Pause when you’re handed the bread and the wine - and say appropriately, “Amen.”


As I was working on this homily last night and paused and tried to come up with experiences I had with the Bread and the Wine.

Back in the 1970’s I was stationed in a retreat house in Tobyhanna, Pennsylvania. On Saturday night, based on the number of men making the weekend retreat, each man would get around 20 minutes of time alone in our retreat chapel, kneeling in front of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament in the gold monstrance - all through the night.

Right after that evening Mass - everyone would clear out of chapel - and one man at a time would kneel there in prayer - up front - in the dark - by himself in prayer. Candles on the altar would be the only light.

I’m in the sacristy after that Saturday night Mass and I forgot where I was and was figuring out a few things in the sacristy. I finished up and walked out of the sacristy. I  headed across the sanctuary. I stepped down into the  main aisle - to walk quietly towards the back door of the chapel.

Boom, I stepped off the first step and right onto the back of a man lying on the floor - worshipping Christ the Lord. I crashed into the benches - said “I’m sorry!” I wasn’t hurt and quickly got up and walked out of the chapel.

The next morning I went up to the man. I saw who he was the night before. He was a big powerful 6 foot 5 or so man - named, “Len the Plumber”. He was not the Len the Plumber - the one whose name is on billboards here in Maryland. This was up in the Scranton - Wilkes Barre - Wyoming Valley part of Pennsylvania. I said, “What were you doing on the floor last night.”

He said, “That’s the way I pray when I come here on retreat before Christ - in the Holy Eucharist.”

I said, “Ooooooh.”

He added, “That’s my God and my savior.”

Then - he must have seen my face - said, “7 years ago we were digging this deep hole in the ground next to a building. It was a big plumbing job. Well, my son was down at the bottom of the hole and the whole thing caved in onto my son. We should have used a caisson. I grabbed a shove and jumped into the hole and started digging and praying furiously. I prayed,  ‘Jesus save my son.’ Then my shovel hit his head - under the dirt. I screamed to my other son, ‘He’s here! I got him.’ I pulled the dirt away from his mouth with my hands and he was still breathing. Jesus saved my son. That’s why I was on the floor last night - still praying and still thanking my Lord and my God for saving my son.”

Many, many, many, times when I’m receiving communion I remember that story.


What are your communion stories?

One Holy Thursday evening I was preaching in Upstate New York and as I was giving out Communion I started noticing the hands that reached out to receive Communion that night.

The 10th  person was an old lady with very arthritic hands. “Body of Christ! Amen.”

The 15th person was a teenager with a boy’s name in ballpoint pen written on the palm of her hand. “Body of Christ! Amen.”

The 20th person was a big burly man - with lots of black oil or tar or grime on his hands. “Body of Christ! Amen.”

Near the end of the Receiving communion line was a teen age girl with just the palm of her hand - and her fingers were just tiny beads of flesh.

“Body of Christ! Amen.”

Well, after Mass on that Holy Thursday night I had some time to just sit there in communion with Christ - and pray and reflect - and those moments with all those people hit me big time. “Body of Christ! Amen.”


Those are a few thoughts and memories and moments of Holy Communion. I have many more. What are yours?

 I have many. What are yours?


June 7, 2015


As we Mass goers know
the Passover Meal is the Mass….
Jesus is the Lamb, the Wine and
the Bread….. He wants us to sit down
with him and enjoy a meal together.
He’ll wash our feet - tell us how to love
one another - as he has loved us -
and ask us to meet and repeat this meal
till he comes again - all in memory of him.

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2015

Painting on top: Part of an Altarpiece [1520-1525] 
by Joos Van Cleve - 1485- 1540/1