Saturday, January 9, 2016

January 9, 2016


Show me your pictures and
you’ll tell me who you are.

And out came wallets and
out came cellphones and
you showed me all those
pictures - all those stopped 
moments - glimpses into you
and the people in your life.

Show me your pictures and
you’ll tell me who you are.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Friday, January 8, 2016



The title of my homily for this Friday after the feast of the Epiphany  is, “Skin Deep.”

In today’s gospel Jesus touches the hand, the skin, of a someone with a skin disease. 

In Jesus’ times many skin diseases - “uneasies” with other’s skin - were called leprosy.  Most of the Bible commentaries say the skin disease of leprosy or Hansen’s disease - was not what these folks in the Bible had.


Whatever! People are scared of skin diseases in  our times as well as in Jesus’ time …..

What I like is that Jesus’ touched skin - pressed the flesh. He washed feet and let his feet be washed.

Without rubber gloves….

Of course we can catch stuff by touching stuff and touching skin. In every hospital there are dispensers everywhere to squirt away germs. They didn’t know about germs and microbes in Jesus’ time - like we know today - but they had inklings.


As we all know there are multiple skin problems - skin cancer, lupus, measles, acne, eczema, rosacea, cysts, cellulites, shingles, psoriasis, rashes, cold sores, what have you.

Many of us saw Mikhail Gorbachev’s birth mark - called a Port Wine birthmark or “nevus frameus”.

In our time there has developed a field in psychology called, “psychodermatology”. In looking up stuff on this for this homily I read an interesting story.  In a conference on skin - someone said there is no connection between skin and the emotions.  A person who said there was a connection said the speaker said that while his fly was open. The guy turned red - checked his fly - but not his face - which had become red. It wasn’t true about his zipper, but it proved the point - that our skin is effected by our emotions. We scratch, we itch, we bite our skin. When I’m nervous - like in traffic,  I scratch my neck and my skull.


Jesus models how to treat one another - no matter how we look - no matter how our skin is - no matter how old and how wrinkled we are.

I assume that means how we treat others - and how we treat ourselves.

I assume that means how we see ourselves in the mirror.

I assume this means how we reflect on issues of esteem of self and others.


I enjoy telling the story about how I once had to undergo a skin treatment to deal with pre-cancerous skin on my face and my upper neck and shoulders.

The skin doctor had me apply this white cream to my face and neck for a month. I did and my face became red and speckled like a pizza. I was on the road and preaching at the time - so the dermatologist suggested I do this when work was slow. 

I was preaching in other parishes - mainly around Lima, Ohio at the time.

So there I was hearing confessions in the dark - on a Saturday afternoon.

Nobody went face to face - but they could. Then the last person was a lady who went to confession. She sat there 5 feet away in the semi-darkness - making her confession face to face. She didn’t look up but at the end as I said, “Go in peace” she reached out her hand and shook mine in peace - but when she saw my face for the first time she panicked.

Ooops, she didn’t know what to. She then took her hands and rubbed them on the side of her hip - as she walked out.

At that instant I knew what it might feel like to be a person with leprosy.


I’ve read in Biblical Commentaries that some New Testament writers are implying that Jesus was the most figured person of all time - the ultimate leper - and the call is to reach out for him - more than skin deep.

If you have ever seen the picture St. Alphonsus did of Christ on the Cross, you’d get the message - seeing Christ on the cross - much worse than the clean Christ on the cross up here. Amen.
January 8, 2016


Guess they started with rocks
and tree trunks - then cushions....
“Wait, instead of walking further
down forest trails, let’s sit and talk.
Let’s finish the story?" ["Or argument?”] 
Guess chairs improved once people 
settled down - and stopped being 
migrants. Chairs! Chairs! Chairs! Sit down 
and tell me all your stories - all you 
heard late and deep into the dark night.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016
January 7, 2016


Last week I spotted a word I had never 
seen or heard before: “dystopia”.

It’s hell! It’s a place of depression.

The dictionary says it’s an imaginary
place. They got to be kidding. I’ve met
people who live in Dystopia. I don’t
know its zip code - but I suspect from
listening to them it can be anywhere.

Thinking about it. I rather live in
Utopia, even if its imaginary. It's
the Kingdom of God. It's Heaven.
It's the dream of Jesus for all of us.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016
Painting on top by  Eleanor Buffan,
from Hell Paintings, a Series
of Paintings of Tortured Souls.
January 6, 2016


Lately, I’ve noticed much of
our talking is sideways - so
little eye to eye, face to face,
connecting. We're making  
just comment jabs, at least 
it seems that way. We're 
speaking words that seem to
be sliding by - bye, bye, bye.
Wait a minute - that comment
you made the other day really
cut me. It stuck right in my
middle - right in my gut. And
sorry to say, it seems, better,
I think that’s what you
intended to do to me - but sideways - 
on the sly. Come on now, 
let’s talk face to face, eye to eye.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016
January 5, 2016


Weaving … patterns … daily living ...
when  will I see what I’m really saying,
what I’m really doing? When will
I know what’s really going on with me,
with others? I guess stopping, stepping
back, taking a walk, discovering distance
is the secret. Looking at my tapestry
and screaming, “Artist!” - “Artist!”
is the step I have to take this year.

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2016
January 4, 2016


At what age do we realize
we’ve been here before?
I’ve told this story before….
I’ve been in this situation before….
I’ve been rejected for this same thing before….
I've made this same mistake before....
Oh my God, life is filled with these over 
and over again repeat performances….
“Life is déjà vu all over again.”
Didn’t Yogi Berra say that before?
Didn’t he say everything before?
Am I repeating everyone before me?
Thanks mom. Thanks dad. 

Thanks Yogi. Thanks everyone!

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Sunday, January 3, 2016



The title of my homily is, “Epiphanies! There Are Moments and There Are Moments.”

As you know the word, “epiphany” means a moment we see differently. It’s a “showing” - a “revealing” - an “appearance” - a becoming aware of something that we were not seeing.

In theology,  it’s seeing the presence of God - seeing the miracle of God's creative power in everyday realities  - like the shining from shook foil in the words of Gerard Manley Hopkins in his poem God's Grandeur.

In Christianity, it’s today’s feast - when the Magi - see the Christ - in a baby - when the world changes because of the coming of Christ in the flesh.

As everyone knows, a baby can change everything.


We’ve all heard people use the word “epiphany”. 

Here are a few examples - a few stories I’ve heard along the line.

“It was a moment. It was an epiphany - a moment when I knew, when I was sure, absolutely sure that God  was aware of me - and I was aware of God.”

“It was a moment - I was stranded at the airport - my flight was cancelled. I knew I wouldn’t get home in time for Christmas. It was my fault. It was the weather’s fault. It was nobody’s fault. I sat there on a vinyl chair at the airport and heard people screaming at airline staff people at the counter. I saw people - lots and lots of people - on their cellphones - talking to people at a distance - using gestures. Lots of gestures. I was seeing an epiphany. This is life. This is my life. I want to be with - really be with my family at this moment and I can’t. I guess the unexpected hard, the difficult, the problem, teaches us much more than the easy - the expected. I now know once again that family and being there for Christmas is a top 5 value. I guess drawbacks show us how to find drawbridges. When things are out of control, I guess it’s then I try to control life and it’s then I find myself even more out of control."

“It was an epiphany when our  first daughter was born. Wow. I began to realize this is what it’s all about. Up till now I never saw these moms and dads walking through our streets - at the park - pushing a baby stroller - or a kid on a swing. Now it was me. Wow.”

“It was at my 5th rehab for my alcoholism. I failed every time. I had done the first 5 steps in AA 4 times - thinking this was the time I would make it.  It wasn’t till I heard myself and my excuses and my lies to myself about myself that I had an epiphany. I got down on my knees - close to the floor - and said to God. ‘I just realized you’re at the bottom of everything - and I guess I have to really hit bottom to realize you are you and I am I and I can’t do this by myself. I surrender. I had that epiphany 11 years and 4 months and 16 days ago - and I’m still taking one day at a time. Hey, you never know.”

“It was in Vermont. We were on vacation. We were backpacking as a family on The Long Trail and it rained every day for two weeks in June. It was miserable. It was cold. It was wet. Looking back, it was the best vacation we ever had as a family. We didn’t know it then, but we realized a few years later, it was an epiphany. We played cards in our big canvas tent every night. We laughed. We celebrated. We cursed the rain drip, drip, drip, as it hit, hit, hit on our tent - all through the night - drip, drip, drip.”

“I was walking down the street and I saw someone coming out of this small church - so I walked in. It was quiet, dark, empty in the afternoon. I sat down. The candles were flickering. No sound of ambulances - trucks - what have you - from the street came through those walls and stained glass windows and as I sat there, I began to pray and I had my life’s epiphany.”


The title of my homily is, “Epiphanies! There Are Moments and There Are Moments.”

We know not all days are same, not all moments are the same.

Isn’t that what makes life such a gift? Isn’t that why we turn on and tune in to the evening news?  Isn’t that why we say to each other, “What’s new?” or “How was your day?”

I was visiting a couple I had married.  They were showing me their small apartment. They didn’t have much furniture yet. In fact they had a fold up card table for their dining room table. But in their bedroom they had a nice big king sized bed and on a nice dresser and on the mirror of that wooden dresser was a picture of a baby. I said, “Who’s that?”  The answer came back from both of them: “That’s what we’re aiming for?”  I got changed and didn’t visit them for a few years. They had a dining room table by then and also a son. I’m sitting there and little Charlie is at the window - holding onto the window sill - and standing on the metal radiator below - making lots of noise - and grasping at something coming through the window. I asked, “What’s he doing?” And his mom said, “Oh he’s trying to grab the light.”  Then she added, “Oh he does that all the time.”


We come to church to grab some light - to see better in our darkness.

The readings for this feast of the Epiphany were grabbed to tell us about the light - revelations - a star that points to Bethlehem.

In the first reading from Isaiah, it happens in Jerusalem. Clouds breaking open and light shines through. Darkness disappears. Wasn’t it nice to see sunlight on Friday after 5 or 6 gray days. So Isaiah tells us in that first reading about the economy coming to life - business is great. Ships have arrived in our ports. Caravans of camels have arrived packed with gold and frankincense.  

In the second reading we have the radiant light that  happened in the mind of St. Paul.

In the gospel it happens to the magi from the East and the new born baby in the crib.

In this homily I’m asking you when has this happened to you: when you saw the light.

The title of my homily is, “Epiphanies! There Are Moments and There Are Moments.”


This weekend - this week - this beginning of a new hear take some time to look at the times in your life - when you have had epiphanies about yourself, your parents, your family, work, health, the meaning of life, God.

Painting on top: 
Epiphany by Art Enrico
January 3, 2016


Oooops. It’s obvious who was who.
It was you who was in the elevator -
and at the water cooler - and in the room
where our coffee and donuts are. It was
you who brought up the complaint about
the smokers just outside the front door
of our building. Well, nobody wants to
tell you, but I will: some people prefer
tobacco scent to this perfume or yours.
Ooooooooooooooops! Now you know.
Ooooooooooooooops! I almost forgot
Jesus’ words about seeing specks in
the other’s eyes and missing the log
in our own eye. Ooops! I forgot the
scent of that message. Ooooooops!

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016