Saturday, July 11, 2015

July 11, 2015


Sometimes there are so many lights
that I’m blinded - so many suggestions
that I’m not sure which truth is best.
Sometimes there are so many books
and too many words coming at me like
I’m in a snow fall. I don’t know which plan
to choose. There are so many voices
that I can’t hear - So many directions
that I realize I’m lost. Sometimes too much
is too much and so many is too many.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2015

Friday, July 10, 2015

JULY 10, 2015


Down deep - don't we all - want to be remembered somehow - by someone - 
some way - in time? By a spouse, a child, 
a grandchild, by a book, a poem, a painting, 
a song, a carving in a tree, a street or road named after us, a gravestone,  initials in 
cement, graffiti, a stained glass window with
our name on it, a namesake, a plaque, a blog. Me?????????????????????????????????
Down, down, down deep, I just want to know
God knows me, loves me and won't let me
slip into non existence - forever and ever. Amen. 

 © Andy Costello, Reflections 20

Thursday, July 9, 2015

July 9, 2015


Like a mosquito….
Like a shark ….
Like those guys on horses in
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid ….
Like a kid trying to get to me
through my newspaper wall till 
I put the paper down and give 
him or her full attention ....
Like the morning light ….
Like death. It’s coming.
So too You, O God.
Thank you.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2015

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

July 8, 2015


Have you ever met a person
who just won’t smile, laugh, or
loosen up - just a tiny little bit -
at something funny someone says
and you want to scream at them,
“Come on now ….Laugh just once
in your life! Maybe this person could
end up becoming a stand up comic
but you’re killing their dream.
Come on! Laugh! Tickle yourself!”

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2015
July 7, 2015


Take my pulse - check my heart -
listen to my soul - watch my actions -
follow my pursuits - and you’ll slowly
see that I have many compulsions.
You’ll know what Jesus knows about
me and you: we all have to travel lighter,
we all have to become simpler, and
someday we’ll discover we already
discovered the Kingdom of Heaven. Amen.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2015


The title of my homily for this 14th Monday in Ordinary Time is, “Steps.”


In today’s first reading from Genesis 28: 10-22a,  there is mention of a stairway to heaven. It’s also called Jacob’s Ladder.

In a dream Jacob sees a stairway that rests on the ground - and its top reaches to the heavens. He sees God’s messengers going up and down on that staircase.


In various religions and philosophies - the ladder or steps or a staircase has often been a metaphor of growth - a step at a time.

We've all heard teachers, coaches, parents, urge us to be better, climb higher. We've all heard the cry, "Excelsior!" I love it that it means, "Excell!" - but it also means wood shavings that served as stuffing for matresses. To me the laugh is, when striving for greatness, be aware of being humble and not being inflated while climbing the top step to receive the first prize for winning it all.

Jesus put it this way, "The first shall be last!" 

When his disciples wanted to be on his right and left in the kingdom, Jesus warned them about wanting to be great. Rather strive to serve others. [Cf. Matthew 20:21-28.]

So steps and striving for holiness is great - but sometimes the silent secret is to step down or into the background.

I have a collection of these various steps in my work in teaching spirituality.


The class 3 steps are the so called: Purgative, Illuminative and Unitive way.

We clean out the room. We fill it with food. We invite God or others in for communion.  The first step in growth is cleansing ourselves of sin or bad habits. The second step is taking on the positive after cleansing ourselves of the negatives and then comes the third step: union with God. [1]


In Eastern Orthodox Spirituality one finds the famous John Climacus and The Ladder of Divine Ascent. John Climacus was a 7th Century Christian monk on Mount Sinai.

It has 30 steps. The first 7 steps present 7 general virtues to climb for a richer ascetic or spiritual life. The next 19 steps deal with overcoming vices and the corresponding virtues to acquire. The next 4 are the higher virtues that help us reach the top. The top rung - Love - Agape - is beyond prayer and stillness and apathy. 

Check it out on Google and look at the pictures of angels helping people to climb that ladder and demons shooting arrows and trying to pull people off the ladder. [2]


Check out Guigo II, a Carthusian monk - who died either 1188 or 1193  - who wrote about the 4 step method of prayer - that has been taught in many retreat houses and conferences on prayer. He called it The Ladder to Paradise [Scala Paradiso or Scala Claustralium].  Guigo II starts with Jacob’s ladder in today’s first reading and says this is a good way to pray:
·       Lectio - Read the sacred scripture
·       Meditatio - Think about what you read
·       Oratio - Pray, talk to God about what you’re thinking - what hits you.
·       Contemplatio - Become quiet, let it sink in, deepen. [3]


Many people have heard about the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. [4]

I remember someone talking about the 12 steps that led up to Dr. Bob’s house in  Akron Ohio. It’s true but I don’t know if they were in the original house.

Since the number 12 is key to the program, there are 12 steps leading to the front door of Dr. Bob’s home.

I did find the following in some notes about Dr. Bob’s house on 855 Ardmore Avenue in Akron, Ohio. “The original house had 11 corner slats in the floor of the dining room and 13 in the living room and now there are 12 in both rooms …. This change was made as a labor of love by another one of the volunteers at the home.”
Here are the 12 Steps. They are also used for other addictions, food, drugs, sex, etc.

1.    We admitted we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable.

2.    Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

3.    Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

4.    Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

5.    Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

6.    Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

7.    Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

8.    Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

9.    Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

10.          Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

11.          Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

12.          Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.


I’ve been working on a book entitled, “The 8 Secrets of Happiness.”

I’ll get it done some day. I put a lot of work into it already, but I’m not rushing - because I have other books in progress and there are already many books on happiness.


The idea behind the image or metaphor of steps or ladders is to get higher, better. 

When I was doing a lot of work in spirituality I noticed that the key noun after the verb, "is" is "way" - as in road, path, steps, climb, movement...."  As in Spirituality is a way to ...."

Robert Frost features the word "road" - as in "The Road Less Traveled [Cf. M. Scott Peck's, best seller The Road Less Travelled" - or Two roads diverged in a yellow wood."

Taoism - pronounced in English "dowism" - has at its root the word "tao" meaning way.

Buddhism talks about the 8 fold path.

Today I'm stressing the image of steps.


NOTES: Drawing on top by Escher

[1] Cf. Mysticism by Evelyn Underhill; The Varieties of Religious Experience

[2] John Climacus: The Ladder of Divine  Ascent (The Classics of Western Spirituality) Translator: Norman Russell

[3] The Three Ages of the Interior Life - Reginald Garrigou Lagrange, Chapter 15

[4] Alcoholics Anonymous: The Big Book, 4th Edition

Monday, July 6, 2015

July 6, 2015


Ten years after he died, a person in that church
finally got what their priest once said in a sermon, when he described some listeners as getting “just paper cuts” when they read 
the Bible - and not even those most of the time. 

But that priest added, “But all things will change - that day - when they realize Jesus is talking about them when they read Matthew 13: 1-23 
or what Hebrews 4: 12-13 is getting at. Then 
it’s more than just paper cuts - a lot more.”

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2015

Sunday, July 5, 2015



The title of my homily for this 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time [B] is, “A Prophet’s Impact.” [Make impact gesture]

This Sunday - next Sunday - and the Sunday after that - we’re going to hear from 3 Jewish prophets - of the Jewish scriptures: Ezekiel today, next week Amos, and the week after that, Jeremiah.

A prophet speaks up. A prophet challenges us. A prophet calls us to be better. A prophet calls us to be honest with each other. A prophet calls us to be in touch with God. A prophet calls us to justice, fairness, and to be a voice for the voiceless. A prophet calls us to be a keeper - to be our brother and sister and the earth’s keeper.

A prophet gets killed - because when he or she speaks up - sometimes we want to kill them. Their words can feel like they are made of sandpaper or razor blades.


Today’s prophet is Ezekiel - a very challenging and fascinating character.

If you have a Bible at home that’s handy, go to the prophet Ezekiel and just flip through the chapters - just reading the headings.

Don’t read from Chapter 1 to Chapter 48 - straight through.

Like reading a magazine or Reader’s Digest, just pick and choose what hits you as you page through its content.

Like chapter 2, “The Vision of the Scroll.” Ezekiel is told to eat - EAT- the scriptures. Chew on them. Digest them. We become what we eat. Great image. Make these words and images our own.

Like chapter 12 he does a mime of being someone who is packing their bags - and getting out of there. My mom used to do that when we were kids. When we were fighting or driving her crazy - she would go to the closet, take our her coat, put it on, grab an empty suitcase and head for the door. The 4 of us would try to stop her and cry, “Mom, no, don’t go.”
I’m the youngest of four and I didn’t know this was fake till my early 30’s. The other 3 knew it was a game - and it worked.

You might stop at chapter 16 and read the allegory of the girl. When she was born she was dropped in an open field and left to die - covered with blood and after birth. God says that He came along and picked her up. He washed her and cared for her. She grew up. In her teenage years, she ran away from God - and really messed up. God came along and rescued her again. And God provided her with the best food, clothes, jewelry, and she  became a queen. And once more she messed up becoming infatuated with her own beauty. She became a prostitute and on and on and on - and God was with her all the time and kept on welcoming her back. So too Israel.

That’s a good way to read Ezekiel. That’s how to be challenged by Ezekiel. In chapter 37 he says we’re like a dead skeleton - laying in a field in a valley with all kinds of dead skeletons and bones.  Then God sends his breath and his word calling all of us who are dead - back to life.

And surprise there is resurrection and new life, here and hereafter.


Today’s first reading ends with these words, “And whether they heed or resist - for they are a rebellious house - they shall know that a prophet has been among them.” [Ezekiel 2:5]

In today’s gospel we heard about how Jesus was rejected by his own home town.

And at the end of his life - his crucifixion - his death on the cross - we see him paying the ultimate price for being a prophet - for speaking up - for challenging us: being killed by the mob.


The next time you’re at a baptism, notice the 2 anointing’s with oil.
The first one takes place early on - when someone - usually a baby - is anointed in their neck, voice box, Adam or Eve’s Apple - sometimes while screaming. The second one takes place after the water being poured over the person’s head.  The baptized person is anointed to fulfill 3 calls in life: to be a prophet, to be a  priest and to be a king or queen.

I like that moment. I like to rub it in.

First the call to be a prophet - that is to scream out for fairness - justice - awareness of the other ones.

I like to say that kids know about fairness - especially when they scream for their piece of cake - their seat in the car - their turn on the ride - what time they have to go to bed.

The number one cry of the prophet is: “It’s not fair.”

Read the pope’s new encyclical on our earth or the big document of Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes.  Both are crying out for fairness on how we treat one another - and how we care about each other - and our home, the earth.

The other two anointing’s are that all of us are called to be priests and kings and queens.

Priests: all of us - men and women - are called to stand there each morning and thank God for a new day - and to look on the altar - the wide plains of creation - and see the round sun and earth and universe - and all human circles and cells - and offer all up to God the Creator in Thanksgiving. Hear God say of all, “This is my body, this is my blood, I’m giving myself and my creations to you. Take and eat. Take and drink. Enjoy your daily bread and daily wine. Pause each morning to attend that daily Mass - with the Mass of humanity.

Kings: that’s the word used in the baptismal ritual - but it’s also queens - and we’re called to see everyone in that light - to honor each other - starting with the little ones. Not having children of my own, I first heard someone talk about his majesty the baby - her majesty the baby. Parents, teachers, care takers, grandparents, serve those little ones - and hopefully they pick up all that love - so they can follow suit.  I’ve always heard about the kind of King Jesus was - one who washed feet and fed the poor.  Now that’s service.


Today I just want to focus on the theme of prophets - and our call to be prophets. 

Who have been the people in our story who were prophets? Who have challenged us?

To be a prophet is to face the tough stuff - to challenge ourselves and others to be Christians - to challenge our kids to get to church - not out of obligation - but because we need folks in our world - who are salt and light - and love. We need folks at work and coffee breaks to speak the truth with love and grace.

To be a prophet is to be someone who gives one’s life and energy for the family and for the human family. Think of all those folks who volunteer and do scouting and keep organizations that serve others rolling smoothly.


These are just a few threads of thought in what it is to be a prophet.

One hope - when they are talking about us in the funeral parlor or the meal after the funeral, hopefully some will say of us in so many words things like this:
·       “A prophet has been among us.”
·       “A generous person has been with us.”
·       “A giver was here.”
·       “She could challenge gossip and unfair comments so smoothly.” 
·       “Fairness was her middle name.”
·       “He made so many significant impacts on my life.”

July 5th, 2015


Have you ever really looked
at a fresh strawberry - up close
and personal? So beautiful and
so interesting. How about someone
with acne - up close and personal,
so beautiful and so interesting?

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2015
July 4th, 2015


To move into the kingdom of God,
one moves in for many motives,
but once inside, one has to work
and cooperate with grace so as
to become
free of compulsions,
free of guilt that cripples,
and slowly become
filled with joy,
filled with a childlike spirit,
filled with love that washes feet,
love that doesn’t look at clocks,
love that doesn’t stop,
love that knows one is touching
the tassel of Christ and one is healed.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2015