Saturday, December 19, 2015

December 19, 2015


Some people are rock; 
some people are water.

Some just sit there in stone silence;

some surround and soak us in every way. 

Some are always just there with us;

some float away never to be seen again.

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2015

Friday, December 18, 2015

December 18, 2015


How could anyone not spot glimpses of
the infinite? The dog is forever looking
for a treat. The little kid wants to swing
on the swing till he sees his sister on the
slide. The river keeps moving by my eyes.
Nobody’s got to the other side of the
stars - even with the latest telescope. I’m
always wondering  if’s  about You, O God.

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2015

Thursday, December 17, 2015

December 17, 2015


Sometimes it seems God is hiding
in the shadows of the dark valley.

Sometimes it seems God the Shepherd
is sleeping on a rock down there in the dark.

Sometimes it seems I’m a lost sheep
and God isn't hear my hurting, "Baa!"

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2015

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

December 16, 2015


It rains.
Iron rusts.
Skin wrinkles.
Expect love.
Colors fade.
Weather changes.
Fashions change.
People sin.
Forgiveness helps.
God ponders.

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2015

Tuesday, December 15, 2015



The title of my homily for this 3rd Tuesday in Advent is, “Changing One’s Mind.”

When it comes to life - unless we’re blind -  one of the things - we discover is that people change their minds.  

They switch jobs, spouses, houses, ideas - sometimes right there - while ordering off the menu at McDonald's.  “Wait! Switch that to a Big Mac.”

If we can say, “Yes” -  we can also say, “No!”

If we can marry - fall in love - be nice to each other - the opposite can happen. When and while the Good is going on, great. When and while the Bad and the Ugly are playing on our screen, ugh.

In fact, love and niceness and goodness - wouldn’t be great unless the opposite could also be a choice.

Freedom - free will - choice - are down deep essential ingredients for being a human being.


The title of my homily is, “Changing One’s Mind.”

Heraclitus said, "There is nothing permanent except change." 

So one of the secrets of life is learning to deal with change - because it’s going to happen.

So if we are alive, we can grow - we can learn to know - we can see that there were some things we were not seeing.

Why? Because that’s the way we are - changing our mind in relationships, religion, politics, friendships, - in everything. How and what we see at 10 is different than what we see at 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90.

Hopefully, we know much more about our mom and dad - brothers and sisters - life - God - than we did 20 years ago.

If we don’t, we’re not talking to our family and each other. If not, we’re not growing and learning. If not, we’re not thinking.


I’ve discovered that we can’t remember everything - every moment of our lives - but there are some moments that we never forget.  Some are dramatic moments - some are so, so moments. Strange - paradoxical to what I’ve just said, sometimes there is no choice in what we remember and what we forget.

I remember one such small moment. I was at a meeting for us Redemptorists. I was sitting at this dining room table for six one evening. In reality I was a listener, because I never got into the argument that happened.

Looking back I don’t remember what the fight was about - but I do remember that  this one guy was adamant with his opinion and three other guys argued against his position vehemently.

The next morning I just happen  to be sitting with the same guy who was in the argument the night before. Surprise the same argument came up - and this time the guy had switched his opinion from the night before and was arguing with the same arguments the others were using against him the evening before.

I was tempted to say something - but I didn’t - but I’ve often thought about that reality. Maybe he couldn’t admit that he might be wrong - the night before. Maybe he thought about it the whole night.

For some reason  that small human happening  - has often intrigued me. It surprised me.

In time I learned that’s one of the benefits for arguing. It helps us clarify our truths.  We might not admit we’re wrong or what have you in the present moment - but in time we change.

As Anonymous put it, “Change is always happening. People don't always see it, understand it or accept it.”

As Maynard Ferguson put it, “Change is always happening. That's one of the wonderful things about jazz music.”

That’s the beauty of music, food, life, religion, philosophy, sports, politics - and what have you.  Life is being given opportunities to learn, to grown, to know different slants on life.


Today’s gospel - Matthew 21: 28-32 - triggered this topic of changing our minds. One son said, “no” for starters, but in time he changed his mind and said “yes” with his actions. The other son said, “Yes” with his mouth, but “No” with his body.

Conversion, transformation, change, repentance are gospel hopes.

Change is the hope of every person - about their children, their parents, their politicians.

Lao Tzu said, "If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading."  

Things don’t have to stay the same. We’re not robots. Things are not pre-determined, Stephen Hawking said, "I have noticed even people who claim everything is predestined, and we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road."

Life calls us to change - wake up - get moving in new directions. I am challenged by the poetic message of W.H. Auden,

Life calls us to change - wake up - get moving in new directions. I am challenged by the poetic message of W.H. Auden,

We would rather be ruined than changed,
We would rather die in our dread
Than climb the cross of the moment
And let our illusions die."


Christmas is coming.

May Christmas this year be a change.

May you experience Christ, family, friends, gifts, cards as a whole new experience this year. Amen.

December 15, 2015


Jesus called us to fish for people -
netting other people into his Way -
his Way of seeing - his Way of being.

But some people are sharks and
barracudas and piranhas and
they bite and chew us up every time.

And some people are salmon or
bass, gold fish or guppy,  cod or
haddock, Mahi-mahi or mackerel.

Wait! Christ’s choice would be to net
all those sharks and barracudas, all
those people who chew us up like bread.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2015

Monday, December 14, 2015



The title of my homily for this 3rd Monday in Advent is, “Oracles.”

An oracle - is not a word - that we use that often.

Without looking it up in a dictionary - we get a sense about what it means.

It’s a speech - that’s more than a speech. In fact, when someone gives a really important speech, it’s called an oration at times.

And that word “oration” comes close to the word “oracle”.

Notice both of them have as their first three letters “ora” - the Latin word for prayer.

So an oracle is speech from on high - from God - special - powerful - with authority.


I noticed that word “oracle” in today’s first reading. Balaam, son of Beor, gives voice to an oracle. [It’s found 5 times in 24th Chapter of Numbers 24: 3, 15, 20, 21, 23.]

 Then Balaam adds that it’s the utterance of man whose eye is true. It’s “the utterance of one who hears what God says, and knows what the Most High knows.” It’s from “one who sees what the Almighty sees.”

Well  if that is true, we better listen.

Today’s gospel - Matthew 21: 23-27 - doesn’t use the word “oracle” - but we have a scene where Jesus is questioned for his utterances - for his proclamations - but especially for what he is doing - which he often says - he heard from his Father - who is God.


We Christians listen to this Jesus - we watch this Jesus - we do a lot of things in memory of Jesus.

For example this Meal, this Mass,  this moment, here in this church - is being done in memory of Jesus.


Our first response should be prayer!

Today’s Psalm response is from Psalm 25: “Teach me your ways, O Lord.”

That’s a great mantra - a great prayer. “Teach me your ways, O Lord.”

Today’s Psalm has us praying, “Your ways, O Lord, make known to me; teach me your paths. Guide me in truth and teach me, for you are my God and my savior.”


In the history of the Church there have been lots of people speaking oracles - as if they were speaking for God.

Many of these are so called, “Private Revelations.”

Often I keep my mouth shut when people ask me about these so called, “Private Revelations.”

They often turn up and become very popular.

But if you ask me about them, I’d give these 3 responses.

First - Pray about them.

Secondly, ask questions about what is being said.

Don’t be scared to ask questions. Mary did?
Be like the Pharisees and ask questions about oracles, “By what authority are you saying these things.”

And often the one giving the revelation says that what they are saying comes from God.

There it is: they are giving us an oracle.

Give everything the litmus test. Does what a person is saying lead us to love the Lord our God, with our whole heart, mind, soul and strength - and love our neighbor as ourselves.

If someone is telling us this is God speaking and something seems wrong - and you disagree - don’t be scared to disagree - you’re not the first one.

There are lots of folks announcing this is God’s will - and at times I just keep quiet or I for one think inwardly, “I disagree!” or “I’m not that sure about what you are saying.”

The history of the church is a history of folks giving us “private revelations” and people accept everything as gospel truth.

Thirdly, use the Gamaliel principle. It’s found in the Acts of the Apostles - 5: 35-39. He uses it on this new revelation called, “Christianity.”

The Gamaliel Principle is this: Give an oracle time. Stall. Hesitate. If this is from God, then why fight God. If this is baloney, time will tell it’s baloney.


Oracles are tricky stuff. Listen carefully and say and pray, “Teach me o Lord, your ways.” Then see what fruit comes from the oracle.
December 14, 2015


Have you ever gone into a dark room
and you sense someone is sitting there?

God is ….

God is just there - like in a dark confessional
or on a soft sofa just waiting for us in our dark.

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2015
Thought on the Feast
of St. John of the Cross,
one of those who wrote about
the Dark Night of the soul -
like F. S. Fitzgerald who wrote
in The Crack-up [1936],
“In a real dark night of the soul
it is always three o’clock
in the morning.”

Sunday, December 13, 2015



The title of my homily for this 3rd Sunday in Advent [C] is, “JOYFUL.”

On a scale of 1 to 10 - 10 being the highest - how would you score yourself as a joyful person?

On a scale of 1 to 10 - 10 being the highest  - how would your family or the people you work with, or the people who live next to you, how would they score you as a joyful person?

Great selfie question: “Am I a joy to be with?”


Today is Gaudete Sunday - the middle Sunday in Advent. Gaudete means “rejoice”.  We have the same idea in the middle of Lent - Laetare Sunday - which also means “rejoice”.

The theme for today is just that: Joy!

You heard in today’s readings that word “joy” or “rejoice” over and over again.

At the end of Advent is Christmas…. At the end of Lent is Easter…. There they are: two Church seasons that lead us to two big Christ feasts.

In both Christmas and Easter, we hear about joy - Christmas joy and Easter joy. Twice a year Catholics, Christmas and Easter Catholics,  got that right.

How does one get joy? The obvious Christian message is: “Get Christ.”

And Christ will challenge you on how to love, how to give, how to serve, how lay down one's life for one's friends - as well as those who are stuck. And giving - doing for others - will lead to great joy.


The opposite to joy is sadness.

If sad, listen to music. Better: joy filled music.  If sad at Christmas time, don’t just sit there in your sadness. Take a good walk. Talk a good talk with someone. Do something for someone. Maybe a neighbor is all alone and you can bring some joy and some soup to them.

Listen to music - joy filled music.

Two great joyful songs are the Ode to Joy by Beethoven and Joy to the World by George Frideric Handel who worked on that musical piece - amongst others.

Today, is December 13. In 12 days we’ll be celebrating Christmas and everyone knows and sings - even Catholics - Joy to the World. 

I’ve also noticed that people sing hymns in church that have the music for Beethoven’s Ode to Joy.

Last night I read up on Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. It’s near the end of his famous  9th Symphony.

Beethoven took the words of the German poet Friedrich Schiller - which he wrote in 1785 - and were slightly revised in 1808 - and put them at the end of his 9th Symphony.

It has never fell off the charts. People have been singing it ever since. 

It’s a great piece for those Flash Mobs.

It became the National Anthem of the European Union in the 1970’s - and in various other places around our world.

Every December in Japan - the Ode to Joy is sung - everywhere - by all kinds of groups. It’s like groups that sing Handel’s Messiah in the United States, Canada, Germany and England at Christmas time.

Schiller - the original author - in his poem - was calling Europe to be united - to have deep respect for all human beings - to open up the prisons that were holding political prisoners who spoke up for human freedom.

Schiller’s poem begins by saying that joy is the divine spark in every human being.


That would be the place I would want to go - to call the world to realize God is within the heart and minds of every human being - but often that spark goes out.

The results are the horror stories of our world.

If that divine spark has gone out, I would hope every Christmas that divine spark be rekindled - in the stable - in the cave - in the manger of our minds or hearts.

I would see Christ as the one who came to cast fire upon the earth - as we heard in today’s.  John the Baptist - when asked if he was the Christ - answered, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in his hand….”

Christ can be that spark that ignites us.

I’m sure some time in your life you started a fire - and you cupped your two hands and blew into that fire to  get it going.

I see that spark like a little baby of a flicker - till it starts burning brightly - and warms the earth.

I would think that’s a way to re-tell the Christ story - the Christmas story.

I always loved being at my sister’s house at New Year’s - and they would fill up the fire place with wood and then get a fire going - a fire that warms the house and puts a smile on everyone’s face.


I began this homily by asking about how joyful you are - on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the highest.

I said that Christ is the one who can come into our world - can bring Joy to our world.

Someone once said, "Joy is the echo of God within us."

That joy begins as a spark. Breathe on it. Fan it. Ignite it. Bring that joy into your everyday world - by thinking and doing for others. Amen.
December 13, 2015


I used to think that God was all joy. I did.
After all - God is in control of everything.
God has everything. God knows everything.
Why wouldn’t that mean - one has only joy?

In that I realized why God sent his only son.
God kept hearing the cries of the poor, the
cries of the hurting, the complaints of the
many - betrayals - denials - rejections - pains. 

So God said, I have to find out what this is 
all about, so he sent his only Son - who felt
his first rejection as a baby - with a lot
more pain to come after that. Ok now I get it.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2015


A Reading from the Gospel of Luke  10: 25-28

On one occasion a lawyer came forward to put this test question to Jesus: “Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  Jesus said, “What is written in the Law? What is your reading of it?  He replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.’  “That is right” said Jesus; “Do that and you will live.”


The title of my homily is, “Bernie!”

As Sandra Morgan was fond of saying, “Bernie?   Bernie is Bernie.”

And she’d sometimes add, “And that says everything.”

And it was a compliment  - as well as a description - of who this man was.


If you knew him, you get that. If you didn’t know him, sorry for your loss.

And as I thought about Bernie - as I was putting together some thoughts for today,  it hit me - that it’s my loss that I only knew the St. Mary’s aspect of Bernie.  There’s the St. Martin’s, the soccer, the Post Office, his connection with you his family, kids, grandkids, friends, other parishes like Bowie, his New York Life, College, and a lot of other lives he had.

At times, in his story telling you could hear references to all these other worlds and lives of Bernie.


He knew my brother - who also worked in the Post Office in Washington, D.C.

I did Betty’s funeral  - so I met some of you back then. Hi!

I also connected with some of  his New York - as well as his Brooklyn Dodgers - references - and I met you Teresa a bunch of times.

But my main connection with Bernie is here at St. Mary’s and Annapolis.

And by St. Mary’s I mean this church building and all the stuff here.

There is also St. John Neumann’s church building - and all the stuff out there.

So St. Mary’s parish wants to thank Bernie’s family - for the gift he was to so many of us in so many ways.

I picked the gospel that I read today - and I only read the first part of it - because Bernie got it. The meaning of life is to love our God with our whole heart, soul, strength and mind - and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Bernie didn’t need to hear second part of that gospel passage. It’s the Parable of the Good Samaritan that followed. The lawyer needed to hear that parable. Bernie didn’t.

Bernie loved God and loved us as he loved himself - but like most of us - we’re not that demonstrative about the loving ourselves part.

Bernie got Martin Luther’s comment, “God does not need your good works, but your neighbor does.”

And his neighbors in so many places got his love - in very practical ways - down through the years.

Bernie knew that was the “Stairway to Heaven” as the Led Zeppelin song put it.

He knew people’s birthdays and he tried to arrange at least coffee together at Nordstrom’s, Ah Coffee when it was open, and a half dozen other places so as to celebrate a person’s life.

He’d take the train to New York, then the subway, then a bus, all the way out to Brentwood New York to thank and to connect with some old nun he had in school 100 years ago.

He kept in contact with 1000 people - probably a lot more.

He knew the secret of life was not stuff - but people.

Like Jesus - who loved to eat with people - Bernie liked to be with people at lunch or breakfast with folks  - and that was a way to love and celebrate others.  It wasn’t the food; it was the friends.

He loved bringing Jesus - the Bread of Life - to people who couldn’t get out of their homes - so as to get to church. Thank you Eucharistic ministers.

He was blessed with the gift of faith - and was thankful for God in his life - often leading us in prayer at St. John Neumann our other church - as well as here - at St. Mary’s. You could always call on Bernie.

Bernie was a neat guy - but not that neat. You’d get invited into his dark bluemobile and he’d have to move his stuff -  the stuff that was on the floor in the front or in the other front seat of his car and move it to the back - smooth and fast. No problem.

“No problem!” That was one of Bernie’s regular comments.

Along with, “I have a question.”

Or, “I was thinking about something you said.”

Or, “What about Evelyn?”

Bernie had his mannerisms, like looking over the top of his glasses as a way of making a comment when someone else made an over the top  comment.

At least once in every time we ate together -  Bernie would fish a picture or a piece of paper out of his pocket and look at it twice - once with his glasses on and once with his glasses off - then refer to it.

Come to think about it - Bernie’s glasses were part of Bernie’s shtick - the Yiddish expression for someone’s signature behavior. You’d see his face…. Glasses on, glasses off, glasses held in hands as he’d put something he was trying to read up close - then using his glasses as a magnifying glass. Bernie’s glasses, Bernie’s eyes, Bernie’s fading hair. Bernie would be a cartoonist’s dream.

Bernie - renaissance man - if renaissance man means interested  in many pursuits and many interests - and has lots of knowledge -  but not a renaissance man if it means a $500 dollar suit - or the overuse of one’s jacket side pockets. Renaissance men don’t use those side pockets on their shiny suits.  Bernie’s were like saddle bags. Bernie had lots of stuff in those side jacket pockets. So Bernie wasn’t a suit. Yet his regular uniform was a suit jacket  and tie. 

And that shirt had its ball point pens etc. Thank God for shirts with pockets.

Who had to clean out his closets? That would be autobiography.

Bernie made it to 80. That’s a lot of autobiography.

Bernie wasn’t sick forever. He didn’t die with his boots on - but came close. That weird sounding cancer got him pretty quickly. Multiple Myeloma - and Bernie would know how to spell it. It got him.

Bummer…. Bummer because Bernie had a lot more steps in him - a lot more cell phone calls to make. And his cell phone mannerisms were Bernie: glasses on - glasses off - cell phone numbers up close - and then closer.

Bernie got sick. He wasn’t the best visit in the hospital. It was tough for him.

Thank God - in the long run - that sickness wasn’t’ that long.

Bet bummer for Bernie. Bummer for us.

Back track a bit. Our lives define us - praise and thank God - not our endings.

So lucky for us, lucky for Bernie, he had a good full life.

It took Bernie a bit of time to accept he was dying - but it wasn’t a forever dying - especially compared to his long, long life. It would only be a few back pages of his biography and autobiography.

In a way we’re here to say “goodbye” to Bernie - but as Chrystal Gale - whom he liked - put it, “It’s like We Never Said ‘Goodbye’.” 

Bernie’s presence is with us - lingering in the back benches of this church - as well as up here in front - giving out communion. He loved saying,

“Jim! Body of Christ.” 
“Mary Joan! Body of Christ.”
“Harold! Body of Christ.”
“Helen! Body of Christ.”
 “Mitzi! Body of Christ.”  
“Governor! Body of Christ,
“Bill Body of Christ.”
“Chris! Body of Christ.”

And we would say back to Bernie, “Amen”

Bernie, thank you for teaching us that we are all part of this wonderful Body of Christ. Amen.
December 12, 2015


Sometimes mist - morning mist - touches
something in us... touching our moods - touching
our imagination - touching our morning spirituality -
as if this new day - is not ready to be a new day -
as if time is still asleep… but - but - we have to
wipe the car windows - we have to slowly creep
out and up the street …. We have to get moving.

Sometimes mist - morning mist in winter - is frost -
and is more beautiful than autumn mist and like
anything more beautiful - sometimes it’s more
dangerous. It’s icy. It’s slippery. So too some people…. They are slick and slippery - slowly creeping into us - cold and cautious - and they crack and crumble our spirituality - and we can’t move….

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2015