Saturday, October 17, 2015

October 17, 2015


Don’t tattoo “God” on the skin
of your arm. Tattoo His name
on your soul. Then close your 
eyes and see the One - and be 
with the One who is keeping 
you and everyone in existence 
for ever and ever. Amen.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2015

Friday, October 16, 2015

October 16, 2015


If you’re going to get a tattoo,
and pinch your skin at that spot
each moment you’re about
to make a critical decision.

Andy Costello, Reflections 2015
October 15, 2015


Patron saint of what?
Prayer, with God? Yes.
Humor with God? Yes.
"Let nothing disturb you."
However, to me the best 
message from her life
is this: great things 
happen when I decide
to stop being invisible!

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2015
Painting of St. Teresa of Avila,
 by Peter Paul Rubens, 
October 14th,  2015


Gravity keeps us from flying off this
great big blue marble earth - so we
don't have to hang on for the ride. 
Instead we can stop to see the scenery,
the great blue waters - the plain plains -
the great grey granite mountains - and people, people everywhere. Check those noses and facial types. See those sizes - and shapes and height - and bellies and wrinkles. Notice those bugs and birds and beasts of all sizes, shapes and colors.
More: we have time to ponder and pray
and wonder about all these mysteries
around us - surrounding us - and then 
there are the questions: why God, why? Why did You make hippos and birds just sitting there on their backs - and all those different types of trees and leaves? Then there are the hundred, billion, trillion bits
of little stuff - invisible to the normal eye -
what's with taking care of all that? What
are You - some kind of super dooper engineer - or juggler extraordinaire?  


Tuesday, October 13, 2015



The title of my homily is, “Why Can’t God Be Different?”

I think that’s a thought a lot of people have.

We started the Letter to the Romans yesterday and we will have it as our first reading at almost every weekday Mass for the next 4 weeks.

I’m looking forward to hearing Paul’s Letter to the Romans and see what it will says to me in these 4 weeks to come. I assume I’m in a different place than I was 2 years ago when we went through Romans for those readings. I’m interested in hearing what hits me in the next four weeks.


So last night I went through today’s first reading from Romans. Chapter 1 verses sixteen to twenty five  - reading and wondering what would hit me.

I noticed right there after today’s text begins, one of the main themes of Paul’s Letter to the Romans. It’s faith.

And Paul gives us his insight into faith. Faith is accepting God as God is - not as we want God to be - or how we picture God to be.

Let me repeat that. Faith is accepting God as God is - not as we want God to be.

Sound familiar. It’s the same act of acceptance we need to make in every relationship - because in every relationship the other person is the way the other person is - not the way we think they are - not the way we want them to be - but the person is who they actually are.

Want peace? Get that.  Want peace? Accept that. Want an easier life? De-imagine who we imagine the other to be.  This should lead to listening - stepping back - asking questions - checking things out - and slowly learning how the other operates.

Get this and we make one key step towards family and marriage happiness.

Deal with each other the way the other is.

Sorry. That’s the way it is.

I’ve often think and come back to a statement I heard many years ago: “The greatest sin is our inability to accept the otherness of the other person.”

We want other people to be other than they are. I live with all these other priests here at St. Mary’s. Of course I often want them to be different than they are and I assume they want me to be different than I am.


We do the same thing with God.

Paul learned that faith is faith in the God, God is.

In today’s first reading he talks about all these other things we make God out to be - all of which are not God.  They are lesser than God. Our minds become clouded and darkened and we end up messed up - floating around following false Gods.


I recently listened to a CD of Patsy Cline’s country Western songs. I like her twang and sound and how she puts her whole self into a song. Plus I understand the lyrics - loud and clear. This afternoon I’m going on a 4 day high school retreat and Ginny and the kids play a lot of songs - the words of which I do not get in the slightest.

And I wonder about Patsy Cline - when will  kids discover your songs?

There it is, the human wanting of people to be different than they are.

I do it all the time.

Patsy Cline seems to have a broken heart in a lot of her songs - but they still give a lot to think about.

When I was preparing this homily I thought of her song, “Why Can’t He Be You.” The thought that hit me is quite complex and I don’t know if I can explain what I mean,   but let me try.

In this song she finds herself broken up with someone she wishes he didn’t break up with her. She’s now with someone new. This new guy brings her to the places she used to go with the first guy and she sings, “Why can’t he be you?”  This new guy brings her flowers, calls by the hour, nice, but she sings, “Why can’t he be you?” This new guy tells her he loves her so, but she sings, “Why can’t he be you?” Her friends tell her this new guy talks about how wonderful she is, behind her back, but she sings, “Why can’t he be you?”

She also sings that the first guy didn’t do any of these nice things - but she still loves him so.

She wants different. In fact, she wants both men to be different than they are.

Don’t we all?

I suspect a lot of people have a list of all the nice things they want from God and how they want God to act. Down deep, their prayer is: “My will be done.”

We see  others and the nice things they do, but it seems God doesn’t do these things we want.  So we sing, “Why can’t God be like I expect God to be?”


In Paul’s Letter to Romans God is God and God does as God does, and happiness is accepting God as God is. Amen.
October 13, 2015


God, Our Father, was just sitting
there in this big gigantic easy chair.
So I climbed up and got myself
on his lap and sat there face to face.
I had a lot of questions and I wanted
a lot of answers. I wanted to look God
in the eye. I’d even rub him nose to nose
to get him to laugh - but he was sleeping.
His eyes were closed. His face muscles
seemed as if he was made of marble.
I wanted, I needed, this meeting. I tried
to open his eye lids - wishing my hands
were pliers - but they wouldn’t open.
I even quoted Jesus, his son,
“Unless you’re like a little child you
won’t get into the kingdom of God.”
So I got down from his lap and looked
for Jesus - and yes, I finally found him
even though his disciples were trying
to shush me away. He picked me up
and told the world “This is the way
to enter the kingdom of heaven.”*

© Andy Costello, Reflections
by the Bay, 2015
*Cf. Matthew 18:1-4

Monday, October 12, 2015



The title of my homily is, “The Letter to the Romans.”

Today, Monday, October 12 till Saturday, November 7th, we have on weekdays - for the first reading, The Letter to the Romans.

At times there will be feasts or what have you - and other first readings will be used. I also know at times other priests switch to other first readings. Yet in general, we have starting today, 4 weeks of The Letter to the Romans as our first reading.

Let us make good use of this opportunity. We have these 4 weeks with Romans every other year - for our first reading.  When it comes to preaching I have been finding myself preaching on the first reading more and more - because I’ve gone through the weekday gospels every year - forever. So I look forward to what Romans will bring us.


We were taught that the Letter to the Romans was a key New Testament document - more important than others. Like the prettiest girl in the room, this letter stands out - in the midst of all these other books of the Bible.

The Letter to the Romans was very important to Augustine, Martin Luther, Karl  Barth, Karl Rahner, Ernst Kasemann, Vincent Taylor, Stanislaus Lyonnet  - and many more people who wrote about its substance and key concepts.

The more we come to weekday Masses - the more we become conscious of differences. For example, hearing Romans is quite different from hearing Corinthians and the other letters of Paul.

I hope as you listen to the first readings, you sense that.

Romans is more theory and theology than the other letters. It has less particulars - perhaps because Paul had not visited Rome before he wrote this letter - like he had in the other letters.


Acts 19:21 “… I must see Rome.”

Rome was the big city. And Paul became fixated getting there - and pondering bringing Christ to the world.  He knew Jerusalem was the capital of his Jewish roots. But Christ was for the masses. Get to Rome. Get to the center of the world at that time. Get to the new beginning Church in Rome.

The year was around 57 or 58 and Paul was in Corinth when he wrote this letter.

He first had to go to Jerusalem with some money for the Jerusalem church - but then he’d get to Rome - which he saw as the center of a hub - so he had to get there - to get the wheels spinning for Spain and other Roman colonies.

Paul was brought up and knew tried Judaism - with its stress on law and control.

He began to discover in Christ grace and freedom and mercy and love.

It took a while but in Christ he discovered the importance of letting go and letting God be in control.


I was listening to Canadian Public Radio the other day and they had on an interview with a former secret police guy in South Africa. He had been in on killings and beatings and control. 

After Apartheid he had a conversion to Jesus Christ - and now he drives a big food truck to the poor.  The interviewer asked, “I guess you’re doing all this to make up for your cruelty - to redeem yourself.”

And the man said, “No basically I’m doing all this because people need food - and our prayers and our hopes. I sinned. Jesus has brought me forgiveness.  Jesus has already brought us into his  kingdom and now we need to bring his life to everyone - especially those who want a dinner on their table.


Amen. So in the next 4 weeks - become more and more challenged by Paul's words and love for Jesus Christ and Christians.
October 12, 2015


Yes - some behaviors - some things you do
stop the music - end the concert for me. So
please, when you see me smiling, enjoying
the moment - as if I’m listening to a song -
think twice about being abrasive or brutish,
cold or disconcerting. Music is in progress!

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2015

Sunday, October 11, 2015



The title of my homily is, “Wiggling Through the Eye of the Needle.”

In today’s gospel Jesus the teacher says to his students, his disciples, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God. It is easier for a camel to pass   through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”


In my Bible here - in the gospel of Mark - which we just heard I have a needle. I keep it inside clear see through tape. I want to see it - but I don’t want to be stabbed by it.

This weekend some preachers will say the eye of the needle was a small gate in Jerusalem - that was very narrow. You had to bend down low and squeeze and wiggle your way into the city through this entrance. It was a short cut. A camel would have a hard time getting in that way. If you had a camel, you’d have to go through one of the main gates - probably get taxed - and checked.

Other preachers will say the eye of the needle is a hole along the edge of a boat to pull a rope through - a heavy rope that gets tied to a bollard or iron post on a pier - to tie up a ship - when docked.

I like the interpretation that is was simply a needle with an eye in it.

And Jesus is using metaphor, image and exaggeration to get across the  effort it takes to: get into the kingdom of God. Come on in. Come through the eye of the needle. Practice the messages I’m teaching you about being a member of the kingdom - here and hereafter.

This rich man wants the answer - the secret of happiness - the secret of how to inherit eternal life. Jesus does what every rabbi would do - tell him to keep the commandments.

He says, “I keep them all.”

So Jesus says to him, “Okay, want more? Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”

Then Mark tell us, “At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.”

Jesus knew being overweight with stuff - can slow us down.

Jesus knew possessions can possess us.

I loved a scene in a short film I once saw on TV on the Sermon on the Mount. In the background one hears Jesus saying Matthew 7:13, “Enter by the narrow gate, since the road that leads to perdition is wide and spacious, and many take it, but it is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” On the screen one sees a guy coming up a street with 2 big suitcases - and a gigantic backpack. He comes to a very narrow doorway and tries to get in - while still holding his bags and pack. He shrugs his shoulders backs out - and continues up the street. Then a little kid with only himself in hand comes running up the street and shoots right into that house.

I could only hear in my memory, “Unless you be like little children - you won’t get into the kingdom of God.”


The title of my homily is, “Wiggling Through the Eye of the Needle.”

Today’s first reading from the Book of Wisdom has the same message in its own way. The author says he prayed for answers  about what life was all about. He realized it wasn’t silver or gold. He prayed and he got prudence and wisdom. They were life’s true riches.

If you were given one or two wishes that you could pray for, what would you ask for? What would you pray for?  You know those wisdom stories that are part of every tradition: You got one wish? Or you got two wishes. Or you got three wishes?  What would they be?

Win the lottery?  Be set for life? Perfect marriage and family?

This week think of that question.

Today’s second reading has a two edged sword as its key metaphor.

That’s a lot more than a needle. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews says the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword. It cuts. It penetrates between soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It discerns what’s going on in the heart. It gets at our thoughts and reflections. Nothing is concealed. Everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him or her to whom we must render an account.

Besides the eye of the needle - the Bible gets us to see what’s underneath. It does what Jesus did to this man in today’s gospel.


In our lives, has there been any moments for us, like this moment for the man in today’s gospel - or the author of the Book of Wisdom or the message in the Letter to the Hebrews?

Has there been a moment when you realized the answer - but it was too tough and we walked away sad?

Maybe it’s time to revisit those moments and memories.


Let me give try to trigger what I’m trying to get at by three  examples.

In 1984 I went to Vienna, Austria, to get in touch with where the Redemptorists were back in 1832 when they sent 3 priests and 3 brothers to work for the German immigrants in America who lacked priests.

Another priest was going to give me a grand tour, but he got stuck in Rome with a meeting. While walking around Vienna I spotted this enormous art museum. I went in to check out the paintings - many of them enormous and old - with great gold gilded frames.

I walked into this big room that had a lot of classic marble sculptures.

Over in a corner I spotted a statue of a young woman - naked and beautiful - which we’ve all spotted in art museums. She was about 20 years old in the prime of her youth. Then I noticed there was another statue of her - if I walked to my left and around to another side of her. Now she was about 45 or 50 still good looking - same woman. Then I could see there was another statue of her - also naked - but in her old age.

“Oooh,” I thought.

Relax, I tried to find on line the name of this combination sculpture, perhaps, “The Three Ages”  but couldn’t find it. But I did find a similar set of 3 of males - aging. It can be found in the Prado, the famous art museum in Madrid.

I stepped back and began to wonder what others would think as they saw these 3 statues.

Off to the side - about 15 yards away - was a wooden bench. I went over to it and watched people as they approached the young woman. Young couples would move closer to each other - or elbow the other. Smiles and laughter were there. Next they got more serious as they got to middle age.  Then came the, “Oh my God!” faces as they saw old age.

I’ve often wondered if that statue became a moment of insight, conversion, rethinking life or what have you for various people down through the years.

The second image was similar. It was something I spotted in an article about a special exhibit going on in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. It was about rings and things from the 1400’s.  One object was the so called, “Gemini Ring.”

It’s twin rings and each ring has a tiny little, little box that has tiny sculptures inside. One has a tiny, tiny statue of a tiny, tiny baby.   The other has a tiny, tiny, sculpture of a skull.

From birth to death, I love you. From birth to death, the journey of life, how am I living it.

Would that ring hit home the simple reality of life: from birth to death?

Third example. This would be a story I began to think about - first draft about - yesterday.

A wife says to her husband, “I’m putting on some weight. I gotta do some exercise. I hear the step master is the best indoor exercise equipment. I’d love to get one.”

The husband is telling this to a guy at work.  He says, “You never buy these exercise gadgets. Just go out at any Saturday where there is a yard sale and you’ll get a stair master for $20 bucks.”

So to save money he checked the papers and found 5 yard sales.  On Saturday morning he went out by himself and checked all 5. No luck.

But he did pick up a neat wooden statue of St. Francis of Assisi.

It was about 3 feet high - and had rich brown wood - a very good sculpture.

He noticed something had broken off from the base - at Francis’ feet.

He asked the husband running the yard sale, “How much for the statue?”

“Two bucks.”

On the way home he stopped into Home Depot to get some wood oil for his new statute.  He cleaned it and rubbed in the oil.   Nice.

His wife asked, “Why did you buy that. You don’t go to church anymore.”

“Well, I can’t resist a bargain and this pope, Pope Francis, is big on St. Francis.”

It didn’t get him back to church - but it intrigued him - what was at the base of this statue.

Well, his brother has a slight heart attack - and he goes to see him in the hospital.

Coming down the corridor is this priest.

He stops and says, “Father can I ask you a question?”

“Go for it,” the priest says, “people always stop and ask religious questions.”

“Well, Father, I bought this neat statue of St. Francis. It’s all wood - beautiful wood - but something is missing at St. Francis’ feet.”

The priest paused and said, “Well it could be a bird or a dog or a wolf or a small deer or it could be a skull.”

“A skull? Why a skull?”

“Well, Francis got it touch with the big mysteries of life and he called Death ‘Sister Death’.”


Then the priest says, “Wait a minute?” He takes out his iPhone and types into Google “Statues of St. Francis.”

He adds, “I could have asked Siri - but I want to show you some pictures.”

Then scrolling along he asked the man, “Is this your statue?”



“No. - Wait, that’s it.”

The priest says, “That’s probably an older statue then, because they switched from skulls to birds at some point. Not as tough.”

Then the priest says, “Where did you get the statue? Family?”

“No, I got it for two bucks at a yard sale.”

“Good move,” said the priest. “What parish do you belong to?”

“Ooops,” the guy says, “I dropped out of church years ago.”


“But I like the statue and it triggered thoughts about how good Pope Francis.”

Well that was the beginning of a wonderful thing - as the ending of Casablanca goes.

The man told his wife about meeting the priest - and what was missing was the skull.

She says, “So are you going back to church? You’re the Catholic.”

All this got to him … death… life… his brother’s heart attack … meeting the priest … the statue… his wife’s comment. She wasn’t Catholic.

In about two months he stopped in to see that priest and he got himself back into God’s good graces.

And now when he goes by his statue of St. Francis, he taps it on the head and says, “Thanks Frank!"


The title of my homily was, “Wiggling Through the Eye of the Needle.”

Hey, it’s never too late to use some wiggle room and get oneself closer to God. Amen.
October 11, 2015


As a matter of fact
you matter, I matter, we all matter.
So what’s the matter with saying,
“Black lives matter”? or
"People in wheelchairs matter."

 So why did you look over
my shoulder at so and so
when I was trying to talk
to you? That matters to me
when I’m trying to reach you.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2015