Saturday, January 23, 2016

January 23, 2016


It’s January and here in the north - in 
the northern hemisphere - it’s supposed
to snow - to slow us down - to sit with soup
and/or hot chocolate warming our hands
and our being and our bellies - and look
out windows at the white out - and hear
the wind - and thank God for the sizzle
from radiators and the crackle from
wood in the fire place, the warmth of love,
peanut butter, card games and each
other - and pray for those on the roads
and those plowing and cleaning our roads.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Friday, January 22, 2016


I was standing there at the Smithsonian
National Air and Space Museum in
Washington, D.C. and I saw a piece
of the moon on display. Wow! I was
able to touch the moon. How about that?

We humans took home 840 pounds of the moon from our expeditions there. Along with millions of other people, I got a 
chance to touch a tiny sliver of the moon.

I got to touch a piece of the rock. It
triggered a million thoughts. Millions of rocks are everywhere: diamonds, parts
of bridges, walls, homes, sidewalks. Then
there were the rocks men were going to throw at that woman caught in adultery.

Jesus challenged them that day and
they dropped the rocks and walked away.

In the meanwhile, I guess I prefer a clear
black sky, a bright white moon, things
undisturbed, blessed assurance, looking
for calm in a Sea of Tranquility with peace
and beauty as the bedrocks of my mind.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016
I took both pictures off the Internet,
the moon rock piece from the Smithsonian
Air and Space Museum Website.


The title of my homily for this 2nd Friday in Ordinary Time is, “The Pause That Saves.”

I like that we human beings have the ability to pause.

I like that we human beings can take the time to stop and think - and also to pray - for light and insight - in cloudy moments.

I like that we human beings have the ability to choose.

Is that what makes us different than the animals?


Father Tizio’s dog, a pug named Wilber, comes into our dining room every morning and he knows where the Cheerios are. It’s in a cabinet below a counter. When someone opens up that cabinet where the cereals are, Wilber puts his two front paws on the edge of shelf - anxious, anxious, anxious - for his fix of food - for a handful of Cheerios.

As that cabinet is opened I see Wilber standing on his back two legs and his 2 front paws reaching up to that shelf I often say to myself, “Here’s a proof for evolution.” At some point humans stopped crawling and started standing, reaching for the higher fruits and berries.


Speaking of food, the title of my homily is, “The Pause That Saves Life.”

Human beings have more choice than animals when it comes to food. If we’re diabetic, or we’re on a diet - or if we have to watch salt - then there’s that pause - then there’s that guilt voice that says, “You can’t have that.”

We don’t have to overeat or over sugar or coffee or salt.

We have the power of pause.


I love today’s first reading. Every one of us at times are looking for a bathroom. It could be on the road or at the mall or at a wedding. We ask, “Could you tell me where the ladies room is? Where there’s a bathroom?”

In today’s first reading from 1st Samuel 24: 3-21, David finds a cave along the way just for that purpose. It’s a have to and a want to.

While in the back of the cave, surprise, Saul enters the cave and David and his men see that it’s a chance for David to kill Saul.

Instead - in that darkish cave, they choose to sneak up and cut off a piece of Saul’s mantle. They have the thought to kill Saul - yet they pause and think about it and they don’t.

It’s right there that I got the thought for this homily.


We have the power of pause.

We have the power of second thoughts - not just first immediate reactions.

We can step back and think.

In sermons I like to stress getting in touch with that moment called, “The Pause!” 

We get it when someone mentions Person X - and we know Gossip Y - and we hear an inner voice that says, “Don’t say it!” Our conscience says, “It’s wrong to talk about people behind their back.”

We have that power called “The Pause” when have to decide to cancel going out in the snow storm or not.

To eat that second piece of pie…. To sit there instead of doing some walking and exercising…. To help our neighbor …. To shovel our neighbor’s steps - hey she’s all alone and she’s an 83 year old lady.


Today is Pro Life Day.

Today we proclaim the power of human life - the sacredness of human life.

We hope we’re planting in the womb of human brains - the seed of the value of human life and the life sentence, “Hey I got the gift of life. Thanks mom and dad. Maybe someone else would want it too."

Thursday, January 21, 2016

January 21, 2016


Be who you is, because if you be
who you ain’t,  then you ain’t who you is.

Be aware of what you’re doing, because if you
don’t, then you don't know what you're doing.

Be in the present moment, when  you’re in the
present moment, but use both your past
experiences and your future hopes to make
the present moment that much better.

Be where you is, because  if you be where
you ain’t,  then you ain’t where you is.

Be aware of why you’re doing what you’re doing
- because if you don't, then you might have dishonesty and self-destruction in your why.

Be aware of how you do things, but keep
learning from your successes and failures and
watch and learn how others do the same thing.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

January 20, 2016


Appreciating, recognizing,
respecting, listening, trying
to understand you. Help.
I can’t do all of this alone.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Tuesday, January 19, 2016



The title of  my  homily for this 2nd Tuesday in Ordinary Time is, “Anointing.”


Here in today’s first reading from the First Book of Samuel 16: 1-13, Samuel is told to “fill your horn with oil” and  anoint as king - the one I have chosen to take over after Saul’s death.

I remember attending an evening lecture by a rabbi in New York City. It was all about David. The speaker gave example after example, how descendent and followers of  David - gave him great press in the Jewish Bible - which we call the Old Testament. The main thought from this rabbi in his talk was: the power of the pen in rewriting history.

Today’s story is great storytelling.  I love the question: “Are these all the sons you have?”  I can hear the brothers standing there saying, “What are we chopped liver?”

In today’s reading we hear all about how kings were anointed in Saul and David’s time. Part of the ceremony was an anointing with oil.

And this practice of anointing will flow into our scriptures, the New Testament, when the authors want to present Jesus  as the new David.  Notice Bethlehem in today’s first reading from the first Book of Samuel.


And we know that Christ means the Christened One - the Anointed One.

And we know that at our baptism - our Christening - oil is used  - not just water. In baptism, we are anointed two times with oil. Then there is another anointing at our confirmation in our faith.


We know that as humans we are ceremony people.

We kiss babies. We baptize babies. We shake hands, bow or hug when we meet. We have symbolic ways of swearing someone in as president or mayor or head of the Elks or Knights of Columbus.

We have all been at ceremonies where set gestures and behaviors take place. We’ve seen presidents sworn - one hand raised, one hand on a Bible - as well as some in a jury room.


And if we think about it, symbols and gestures need to fit what they symbolize - with what's going on - with what's taking place.

Think about oil: what it is, what it does.

Oil helps machines work better.

Oil is also healing agent.

Go into any CVS store and you’ll see all kinds of hand creams, lip balm, oils for healing. Our hands get chapped during this cold weather and we go to that section of the store for something with oil and the healing magic in it.

I’m sure they find some kind of oil on the hands and feet of these bodies from 5000 BC in frozen tundras of northern Norway or Siberia.

As priest it means a lot to me to visit someone who is sick and anoint them.

But like receiving Communion or doing a funeral or a wedding, a religious ceremony that uses oil, the oil has to fit the reality of being touched and anointed.


In other words, as we heard in today's first reading, what is going on must be more than appearance, but from the heart. As we heard in today's gospel, we don't do things to enhance and to keep some law, but we do what brings new life. Amen.

January 19, 2016


Whether we like it or not,
whether we agree with it or not,
all our comments, all our words,
carry cling. Our sounds, our face,
our way of saying words - are loaded
with the glue of baggage and memory.
Psst! That’s how we hear each other.
How about this comment here?
What does it trigger for you? Any
comments? Any words in return?

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Monday, January 18, 2016



The title of my homily for this Monday in the Second Week in Ordinary time is, “How Specific Is God’s Will?”

I think this is a lifetime question.

How specific, how particular, is God’s Will for us?


When we read or hear the Bible - like at the readings at Mass - it seems God’s will is very specific.

Like these readings from the First Book of Samuel - we’ve  been hearing right now - these days at weekday Masses. Samuel gets specific orders from God. Saul - now gets specific orders from God.

Like today Samuel tells Saul that God wants him to destroy and to exterminate the Amalekites.

We seemed shocked when we hear about people killing people - claiming God wants them to do it. We wonder about their scriptures. I remember when I started reading the Koran - and I started noticing how many times the book has Allah - God - saying, “Burn! Destroy! Kill!”  Then I began to notice how many times our scriptures states that same message.

It’s enough to shake our faith. I hope it’s enough to shake up our brains - till we become thinking people.

I would think that someone who is a peace officer should try to stop someone who is trying to destroy someone else. If it could be done without killing the killer, good, but….

I would think the same of someone in the military - but there better be a lot of thinking and diplomacy and study - before entering into battle.

Today’s gospel - Mark 2: 18-22 - has the question of fasting. Is it God’s will to call people to fast - like we have Lent coming up soon. It’s early this year.

Is fasting and abstaining and religious sacrifices for God or for us?

Didn’t Jesus say something like that when it comes to observing the Sabbath?

When I’m with young couples who are planning to get married, we go through a questionnaire. I ask couples if they are getting married in church because they want it, or to make their parents happy. I often say, “In my opinion, I think there’s something wrong or funny if people go to church growing up to make their parents happy and then go to church to give good example to their kids. I assume the message is to go to Church because you have the gift of faith and you see this is good for you and your spouse and your kids if you’re blessed with them. I like to add that I hope being a Christian, being a Catholic, is what you want  - and that you’re a thinking Catholic.


God’s will, what God wants, to me is quite a thinking question.

My first question is the title of this homily: “How Specific Is God’s Will?”

To me the answer is the  question and the answer of the Rich Young Man who came to Christ and asked, “What must I do to gain eternal life?”

To me he is asking, “What’s the  secret of life? What’s the meaning of life?”

And I hear a very simple answer, “To love the Lord my God with my whole heart, mind, soul and spirit - and to love my neighbor as myself.”

Whether we should marry so and so - move to such and such a place - that to me leads me to a God like a dad or a mom who says, “Son, daughter, we just want you to be happy and have a great life - making life making sense for you and for the good of others.”

I have heard some unhappy people who do everything to please others and they end up being miserable themselves.

I like a lot of what Martin Luther King Jr. said.

For example, "The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: 'If i stop to help this man, what will happen to me?' But ... the Good Samaritan reversed the question: 'If i do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?'"

For example,  "Whatever your life's work is, do it well. A man should do his job so well the living, the dead and the unborn could do it no better."

For example, “If a man has not discovered something that he will die for, he isn't fit to live.”


Today’s gospel talks about the new.

Each of us is a new creation - called to do the new thing we have been created for.

What is that? That new specific is up to us to find - to discover - and to dream and to do.

Martin Luther King Jr. challenges the silent - the complacent - those who don’t climb mountains - and look down on life - and see where we can make a difference - and make things better. He died in Memphis - killed assassinated - as he was trying to make life better for those who picked up  garbage -  killed I’m sure because someone thought that was the right thing to do. I don’t know if they thought it was God’s will. I hope not.

January 18, 2016


The king said, “I have a dream….”

What are yours? Climb that mountain and see
what needs to be seen - what needs to be done.
Comfort and convenience need to be replaced
by challenge and confrontation. And that 
might mean suffering, opposition and death.
Those in the dark, need to turn on the light.
He said too many people are silent.
The narrow and the negative think me, me, me…. Those in the Kingdom see, see, see.
Quality not quantity.... Overcome inequality.
All of us are all God’s children. All of us.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Sunday, January 17, 2016

January 17, 2016


There are miracles and there are miracles:
water into wine, wine into blood, bread into
Christ, ocean into mist, into clouds, into rain, 
desserts bloom, snow falls, skiers ski, 
a baby is growing in a womb, kids come
out, start crawling, walking, running, talking,
laughing, loving, and a wife makes an act
of faith in resurrection, in Christ, at her
husband’s tomb, and gathers her strength 
to crawl, and then go on and on and on.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016



The title of my homily is, “Blue Owl.”

I had trouble putting today’s three readings - for this Second Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year C - into a recognizable theme and message, so I decided to write a story about an imaginary someone - to try to give some meaning to what today’s three readings are about. I like to do this especially when I’m not sure on what to preach about. [Cf. Isaiah 62: 1-5; 1 Corinthians 12: 4-11' and John 2: 1-11]

So here is an imaginary story called, “Blue Owl.” It’s total fiction - but I know it has become reality many times over for many, many people.


Eventually, years later, when they did the paper work they discovered that Blue Owl was born with blood and family lines that were part of 4 different Indian Tribes in a dry deserted part of Arizona. He was part of the Zuni, Pima, Yuma and the Apache Native American Peoples and didn’t seem to fit into any one of them.

His parents had long ago disappeared - as well as any connection to any siblings, or aunts of uncles.

Yet he  survived - living in three different orphanages and was making it.

At 11 years of age he was living in a Catholic group home with about 45 other little kids. It was poor. It was lonely. But it was home - a home run by a small group of American Catholic Nuns.

The nuns did their best. Better days were behind them. Yet the kids had a bed, meals, schooling, and a future promise of learning some life skills so they could get a job and a life somewhere.

Things change. The nuns had a big community meeting to go to - and at that meeting - they had to face the reality they were aging - and they had to give up some of their places.

Unfortunately, Blue Owl’s place was picked to close. The 45 kids would have to be relocated - somewhere, somehow.

One of the nuns had a grandnephew who was a newspaper reporter in St. Louis and she told him in an e-mail the horrible story about what was going to happen. He wrote the story up - giving the history of the orphanage/ school  - the work the nuns had done down through the years - and how many of the kids got jobs ranching - forest fire fighting - and doing this and that - advancing in life - some doing very well by entering into the military.   He didn’t mention - he was tempted - but he didn’t mention in the article about the alcoholic problem that afflicted many Native American People.

A dad in a family in Minnesota - Minneapolis to be exact - just happened to read the paper while waiting for a plane in St. Louis - after a business meeting - before heading back to Minneapolis. He got the thought, “I wonder if we could adopt one of these kids.”

He asked his wife and family when he got home and they thought about it - and even said a prayer about it - and they all said, “Why not?”

“Let’s go for it.”

So they called the reporter who got them in touch with the reporter’s aunt and they talked and talked - and asked if any of the kids would be able to be adopted.

“Yes!” came the answer.

So mom, dad, and three boys  - one 11 and still in grade school and two in high school  - flew down to Arizona on the long Martin Luther King Jr. weekend - got a rent-a-car - and drove 156 miles to where the orphanage school was.

The nuns provided rooms for the family there and introduced them to the kids.

Blue Owl didn’t stand out. He was quiet - off to the side - sort of out of it - but Henry from Minneapolis - the family’s youngest son - went over to Blue Owl and made a dent into his brain and story.

He told his mom and dad and two other brothers, “Blue Owl’s the one!”

All hesitated - because they had other kids in mind - and Blue Owl seemed so non-descript -  but Henry insisted that Blue Owl was his choice and invited Blue Owl to eat with them that Saturday for lunch.

The other 4 hesitated - because Blue Owl seemed so “Forsaken” - so “Desolate”  - but Henry - Henry had a forceful  personality and won the day. He said, “Most of the other kids will find a home, but I don’t know about Blue Owl.”

Blue Owl arrived at their home a month later. Dad and Henry had been in contact with him and they are the ones who flew down to Arizona to get him and get his stuff - the little that he had - and come to their home in Minneapolis - and experience plenty of snow and cold - but also warmth and love, home and family.

Years and years later, looking back at that whole experience, Doctor Blue Own Peterson - that became his Norwegian American adopted name - told many an audience at Medical School where he taught surgery - how lucky he was to have someone to pick up a newspaper in an airport - get an inspiration - and then do something about it.

He would tell his students and different audiences - it was like eating at McDonald's all your life and then you’re at a wedding banquet and they are feeding you like a king. It was like living on the street and you scraped up two dollars to buy a Powerball lottery ticket and you won.

He would conclude many a speech or lecture, “I won that day when I moved from a small run down orphanage on a dirt road in nowhere Arizona to a wonderful home on a tree lined street in Minneapolis, Minnesota - discovering I had a mom and a dad and three wonderful brothers - especially my twin: Henry.”

Sometimes he would add, “I don’t know how I got the name ‘Blue Owl.’ I might have been too moody - too dark blue owl night moody like - but when I came to Minnesota I became in time Yellow Canary - a happy Yellow Canary.”

“But no, I still like the sound and feel of Blue Owl.”