Saturday, August 1, 2015

August 1st, 2015


PRAYER  TO  HAVE  
THE  SPIRIT  OF  
ST. ALPHONSUS 

Dear Lord,
teach me to put into practice
the love of Jesus Christ - by
being aware of the poorest
and most neglected in our midst.
Teach me how to pray, so that
I can be saved; to forgive so that
others will experience your love.
May confession and moral theology
help free people filled with guilt and
scruples - especially those who feel
blocked from Christ’s love as found in
The Eucharist, the Way of the Cross,
and in Mary, the Mother of God. Amen.


© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2015
August 1st is the feast of
St. Alphonsus Liguori,
founder of the Redemptorists
and Doctor of the Church
because of his Moral Theology
and many books. Dates: 
September 1696 to August 1, 1787





Know your priorities.


Friday, July 31, 2015

July 31, 2015


ST.  IGNATIUS’ 
SIMPLE  DISCERNMENT  TEST

More or less?

What gives me life? More.
What’s killing me? Less.

Looking backwards,
when was I truly happy?  More.
When was I really unhappy? Less.

Looking at others:
who are the happy people,
who are the drainers and
the complainers? What about me?

Lord, Jesus, aren’t the words 
I want to hear when someone 
stands at my grave to be: “generous, 
served, gave without counting the cost, 
fought for what was right, even when 
it meant wounds and the hurt”?


© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2015

Part of a painting by Daniel Seghers
of St. Ignatius of Loyola, 1643
July 30, 2015



PRAYER TO SAINT PETER CHRYSOLOGUS 
PATRON  SAINT OF SHORT SERMONS 

[To be said silently in your mind when about to deal with long, long preachers.]

Dear Lord,
give this preacher
and all preachers
the gifts of St. Peter Chrysologus.
Inspire them to work hard
to make their sermons
short and simple,
clear and concise,
five minutes long,
filled with golden words,
with insights and challenges
on how to best live the Christian life. Amen.


© Andy Costello Reflections, 2015
Today is the feast of St. Peter
Chrysologus (Golden Words),
Bishop of Ravena,
Doctor of the Church,
dates c. 380-c.450.
176 of his sermons are around - estimated 
to be 5 minutes long and very clear
and very scriptural.



Wednesday, July 29, 2015

July 29, 2015


HOW DO I SEE LIFE?

Once upon a time I heard a preacher giving
a conference talk. He was saying he saw
life as a battle. Every day was warfare.
And, oh yes,  I started thinking, “Oh no!” 
He had his Bible and his quotes to do battle
with anyone who wanted to argue with him. [1]
I know I wanted to - but then that would only
prove his point. I wanted to say, “Why can’t
you taste those days when life is a delicious bowl of cherries, instead of concentrating on all your pits?”

For a time I was trapped in that war room,
but inwardly I realized I could go  AWOL:
Absence Without Official Leave. I could
retreat from his front line. I did. I could hear
his battle cries lessen as my mind wandered
out of that room and into the Coney Island
of my childhood or a funny game of rummy 
as an adult. I could be far from that battlefield
as he continued to argue and do battle with
some of his audience. Me?  I went into the hills
and the mountains with Jesus. He taught me
to look at the birds of the air and the flowers
of the fields - and to  enjoy sitting in the cool
of the evening with Lazarus and Mary while
their sister Martha grumbled inwardly about us
doing nothing but relaxing as she steamed 
up a supper for us in the kitchen. [2]


© Andy Costello Reflections, 2015

NOTES:

[1] Ephesians 6:10-17; 1 Corinthians 14: 8; Luke 14: 31-32

[2]  Today - July 29th, is the feast of St. Martha, so that's why I put this stuff in. Cf.  Luke 10: 38-42;  John 11: 1-44.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28, 2015


DROP THOSE STONES

She said, "I was so very dumb to
have done what I did. How could
God or anyone else ever forgive me?"

I listened and listened till I realized
the only person here who couldn’t
do the forgiving was she herself.

“Oh my God.” I said, “we have here an
authentic John 8:11" - so I said, loud
and clear, “Go away and go for it.”

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2015

Painting on top by Pieter  Bruegel
the Elder, 1565. It can be seen in
the Courtauld Gallery in London.
Then there is another version,
which is attributed to his son,
Pieter Bruegel the Younger.
It is dated to around 1600
and it can be seen in the
Philadelphia Museum of Art.




FACE  TO  FACE WITH GOD 


INTRODUCTION

The title of my homily for this 17th Tuesday in OT is, “Face To Face With God.”

Today’s First Reading from Exodus, especially the words about the tent and the cloud and Moses seeing God face to face, is very ancient - around the 9th century BC. [Cf. Exodus 33: 7-11, 34:5b-9, 28.]

Because of their sins and their sinfulness, Moses set up his tent outside the camp. The people’s tents were set up inside the camp.

The cloud would settle over Moses’ tent and the people like little children got the message from Moses - through his words and body language - that God was not happy with them because of their sins.

Moses - like God - distanced himself from the people - and only met with God outside the village. They were not worthy of God. They would stand outside their tents and worship God from a distance - unlike Moses - who is described as seeing and being with God face to face.  In yesterday’s first reading from Exodus, we heard how they sculpted a golden calf and said this was their god - from their golden rings and things.  We can do things like that.

I was thinking that the basic instincts going on here are wanting to be close to God - good - and to get God under our control - according to our image and likenesses - not good.

IN THIS HOMILY

In this homily we could look at our relationship with God.  When we were little kids, what was our relationship with God like?  Does every parent - like Moses - use God to get their kids to be good? Where do people pick up that when things go wrong, they ask, “What did we do wrong?”

Answer: sometimes yes - sometimes no. Obviously there are things we can do to stop global warming. In the meahwhile we can bring an umbrella when it really looks rainly and wear a cool t-shirt when it’s going to be hot.

When did people pick up that God gets angry with folks? Where do people think that when anything goes wrong, it’s God punishing people?

In the New Testament we’re going to hear Jesus countering this thinking in various stories - especially ‘The Story of Man born Blind” - Chapter 9 of John.

FACE TO FACE

I think the solution is to ask the Lord to have an intimate, face to face, relationship with him - and to let go and let God be God - however the mystery of God works.

Yet to still strive to be with God….

Yes, to be like little children, who see their father in the corner reading the paper and they go over - climb up on his lap and pull down the paper wall - or to get up into their father’s face and climb closer - face to face - nose to nose  - and to look into God’s face and say hello.

In fact, if we have  a relationship with a distant God - we might tend to be way off when it comes to knowing God.

LIFETIME EXPERIENCE

God is a lifetime experience.

The Jewish Scriptures - give us many people’s perceptions of God. That’s why we read them. We read them - we hear them - and we act and react to them.

The Jewish Scriptures - the New Testament - give us the gift of Jesus - and how he struggles to tell us who he his - and who his Father is - and what they are like - and to pray to and for their Spirit - as we slowly move deeper and deeper into the mind of God.

It’s a lifetime experience like any close - face to face relationship - we have with each other - not from a distance - not outside our tent - but inside the tent called our family and the bigger tent called our places of worship - and hopefully somewhat before we die - but definitely after we die - the cloud with disperse and we will be with God - in a face to face eternal experience - or however eternity works.

Monday, July 27, 2015

July 27, 2015

KINGDOM  PRACTICES 

Hold the door open. Let another in ahead of us.
Enjoy the food and thank the cook or the waitress.
Say, “Hi” to those in the elevator with us.
Give a smile to the driver in the car next to us.
Pick up garbage, wrappers, etc. on the sidewalk.
If there are crayons, and there is paper, draw.
Say to the dog walker, “Nice dog. What kind?”
Give the street musician at least a quarter!
Take the grandkids out for ice cream!
Turn the other cheek. Answer anger with peace.
Go the extra mile - especially for the stuck.
Forgive 70 times 7 times and then some more.
See the good the others do; Miss the mistakes.
Wave! Smile! Greet! Acknowledge others.
Give glasses of cold water.
Say, “Beautiful baby. Wow. Lucky mom and dad.”
“Want a cookie?” "Want a cup of tea?"
Break and share your bread.
Give positive comments about great T-shirts.
Check your baggage - free up the overheads.
Tell others to tell that story about their kid.
If a kid loves chess - ask her to teach you the game.
Pray with others - especially when they are facing a problem.
Call you old coach when you see his name in the paper - especially after a tough loss.
Go to high school musicals and plays - even when your kids are long finished college.
Never stop being like a little child.


© Andy Costello, Reflections 2015
PRONE  TO  EVIL? 
HOW  PRONE? 


INTRODUCTION

The title of my homily for this 17th Monday in Ordinary Time is, “Prone To Evil?  How Prone?”

I take that title and that thought from what Aaron, the brother of Moses, says to him in today’s first reading from Exodus 32: 15-24, 30-34, when Moses comes down from the mountain and all the people are singing, dancing, chanting and worshipping the Golden Calf.

Moses was just up the mountain in ecstasy, in awe, in worship, with God, Yahweh, the presence that brought them out of Egypt and slavery.

How soon they fall into sin!  How soon they drop the invisible God - for a visible God - the Golden Calf.

Aaron says to Moses, “Don’t be angry. You know well enough how prone the people are to evil.”

QUESTIONS THAT COMMENT TRIGGERS?

That comment in Exodus 33:22 triggered for me the following questions:
·       “How prone am I to evil?”
·       “Are we all different in degree when it comes to sinful tendencies?”
·       “If different, what sins am I prone to?”
·       “Have I changed through the years?”
·       “What are my temptations?”

PRONE

Other translations of Exodus 32:22 use the word “bent”.
The New English Bible has Aaron say, “You know they are troubled.”
The King James Version says that the people “are set on mischief.”
The Good News Version goes this way, “you know how determined these people are  to do evil.”
KEY THEME

For a homily thought today, please answer this question for yourselves.
Why do we sin? Why do our kids mess up? Why the horror stories in life?
Why do we hurt ourselves or others?

Another series of questions:

·       Are we predetermined? 
·       Are we born bent out of shape?
·       Is it our parents or TV or friends that give us good or bad example?

I’m serious. We need to reflect deep on this.

Genesis begins by saying, “All is Good. All God makes is Good.” 

Then we have the Adam and Eve and bad fruit story - and we are the ones who choose evil.

Next Cain kills his brother Abel.  In that Hebrew Story in Genesis 4 - we hear about the “Yetzer hara”- a Hebrew term for the evil that lurks at our door and we are the ones who invite evil into our house or tent.

All through the Old Testament we have this question - of why Evil.

In the New Testament Paul’s answer in Romans is, “I don’t know.” I tell myself, today I’m going to do this and I go out and do the opposite. Why? Why?

Why do find ourselves saying on a regular basis after we do a nasty, “Next time less wine, next time less whining, next time less eating, next time less gossip and we do the opposite?”

CONCLUSION

I don’t have a conclusion.

This is the lifetime struggle. Paul will say in Romans - as Augustine read in the garden - that the only person we can turn to is Jesus Christ. [Cf. Book 8 of the Confessions and Romans 13:11-14]

In the meanwhile, be like Moses and find some alone space and listen to the 10 Commandments.

In the meanwhile, follow Jesus, the New Moses, and hear him tell us what he learned on the mountain: the Sermon on the Mount.


Or scream out to the Lord, “Help! Bend me back into shape. Prone me towards you.”

Sunday, July 26, 2015


I  REMEMBER ____
FILL  IN  THE  BLANK

INTRODUCTION

The title of my homily for this 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time [B] is, “I Remember ______ Fill In The Blank.”

One of life’s key opening and recurring comments is, “I Remember….”

And then we tell a story, a remembrance….

When we get older - our long term memory seems at times to take over - and sometimes fills the room with a great story or remembrance - and sometimes if we repeat ourselves enough - sometimes it empties the room.

When we get older - sometimes our key sentence, “I remember…” changes to, “I can’t remember…” or “I’m trying to remember…” or, “I’m losing my memory…” or “I forgot….” 

So too the sadness in some - when losing family or faith - and the loss of the sacred - and sadness invades or pervades the soul or the room.

VACATIONS

It’s summer and sometimes people go back home and walk the streets of the place where they grew up - and up come memories - like grass through the cracks on the sidewalk.

I don’t have children - but I picture that it would be a wonderful memory for a kid to have a dad or a mom or grandparent take them through the places they were.

So too soldiers and sailors going back to Vietnam or Korea or San Antonio or San Diego.

So too going back to the schools and playgrounds and the places we used to go to. And the little children laughed and smiled seeing dad sliding down the slide once again - or grandma on the swing of her childhood.

And if you haven’t and if you can, if you see people on the front steps of  your childhood home - go up to them and tell them you used to live here and could you get a guided tour - if possible.

So too the beauty of museums and photo albums. Let your feet or your fingers do the walking - and let your mouth do the talking - if you have an audience.

When I see people standing outside this church and they look like visitors, I like to suggest, “Welcome. The church is open. Check it out. And at times someone says, “I was married here,” or “I went to school here.”

A POEM BY CONRAD AIKEN  (1889-1973)

Talking about memory and remembrance, I spotted a poem by Conrad Aiken - an American poet - of Savannah, Georgia and New England and elsewhere - and a very complex life.  He was big on remembrance and symbolism. I spotted in reading up about him, that he has an autobiography along with his many poems and other writings. I might check that autobiography out.

Listen to this poem by Conrad Aiken.  It will lead me to today’s gospel about Jesus and Bread.

The poem is entitled, “Bread and Music.”

BREAD AND MUSIC
By Conrad Aiken

Music I heard with you was more than music, 
And bread I broke with you was more than bread; 
Now that I am without you, all is desolate; 
All that was once so beautiful is dead. 

Your hands once touched this table and this silver, 
And I have seen your fingers hold this glass. 
These things do not remember you, belov├Ęd, 
And yet your touch upon them will not pass. 

For it was in my heart you moved among them, 
And blessed them with your hands and with your eyes; 
And in my heart they will remember always,―
They knew you once, O beautiful and wise.

Anyone who has lost a loved one - as you move among their stuff gets this poem big time - first time.

The stuff of life is filled with flashbacks - and history - her and his story.

The feel of others is on so many things in a house - especially in the living room. They don’t have to have the words “In memory of” like the stained glass windows here in church. We just have to talk to each other - in the living rooms of our lives.

THE MASS

I have met with various people who have left the church and want to come back. Often - if they are old enough - they discover the Mass has changed - but they were not here to witness and change with the changes.

I don’t listen enough or too well - but I make an effort to listen to what they saw and missed - or didn’t like or what they wondered about as they left.

The bread is the same. The wine is the same. The key words are the same: “This is my body. This is my blood. Do this in memory of me.”

Jesus spoke in Aramaic.

What he said went into Greek - and spread through the Mediterranean Basin - and then into Latin and into the languages of our world.

I like to take people into the sacristy here at St. Mary’s and show them the safe in there where there is the gold and silver cups and plates.

We were brought up not to touch them. That has changed. I ask them to take the chalice and take the gold plate - and feel the Mass in them - the thousands of Masses and more in them.

Sometimes they have engravings in them: “In memory of Luigi and Mary Mellaci.”

I show them the unleavened bread. It’s unleavened like the Passover Bread - which  Israel gobbled down before their run, their exit, their exodus from slavery to freedom - wanting the promised land. Don’t we all?

I tell them the joke a deacon Dave Page at Millersville told Father Harrison, “At Mass we believe that the bread becomes the Body of Christ, but the greater miracle is to believe this is bread.”  There was a post Second Vatican Council statement to try to make the Bread of the Mass to look and taste a lot more like bread.

To feed 500 or 5000 as in today’s gospel, the Church got practical and came up with the round bread, hosts, we use in Catholic Churches in the West. The Eastern Catholic and Orthodox churches use little cubes of leavened bread - and have longer Masses.

In the poem I read we heard about a sad man at a table where he broke bread with his beloved - bread that was more than bread - because of his love for her - and her hands touched a glass where they shared perhaps wine. Memories and moments at the family table.

Give us this day, our daily bread.

To me Conrad Aikens’ poem obviously triggers  Eucharist, Memories, Moments from way back. To me I have met various people who want to come back to the Eucharist - because they need the bread and the wine and the table and the words of Christ. Down deep they don’t miss nostalgia. They miss Christ - the bread of life.  They miss the Word of God.

As you know scriptures mean writings - script.  As you know the 4 gospels didn’t get formalized till after 60 and up till 100 at least for the gospel of John. Before that the followers of Christ met and shared bread and wine and stories of Jesus and someone finally said, “We’re getting old. Our minds are going. We better write down these stories and sayings that Jesus told us. We better write down his story for the next generation - and by the way, here’s a letter that we just received from Paul that is going around. And notice how this story about Jesus feeding 5000 people is like this story in the Book of Kings when Elisha the prophet fed the people with 20 barley loaves - as we heard in today’s first reading.

CONCLUSION

The title of my homily is, “I Remember ____ Fill In The Blank.”

We’re here at Mass this Sunday to “Do this in memory of me” - Christ.

We come here because we are like this crowd in today’s gospel. We are hungry. We are thirsty for this table and any table that can bring us together.

Let me fill in that blank after that I remember in my title this way.


“I remember Sundays in my childhood when we went to Sunday Mass and came home and my dad made us grey cooked cereal that was sometimes lumpy and demanded lots of sugar and then we all went to Bliss park - us 4 kids and him - and mom got a break from us - and we came home had a Sunday dinner together  - all around the table and then we went up to the drugstore on 4th avenue and got a gallon of Breyer’s Ice Cream - and all was good and all was wonderful….
July 26, 2015


HURTING

Some hurts hide deep in the bottom
of the human heart. Some haven’t
had enough time to sink down there yet.
They are still too close to our face muscles,
too close to our tears and fears - so one 
stays busy or hides - or wears dark
sunglasses - lest these recent hurts 
provoke those who know us to ask, 
“What’s going on in there? Are you okay?”


© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2015
Painting: The Human Heart
by Andy Warhol, c 1979