Saturday, January 30, 2016

January 30, 2016



He said, “I’m a non-believer.
I don’t believe in God, nor do
I believe in heaven or hell.”


Eventually I said, “If you’re saying
that  - then I believe you must have
been burnt by some hell.”


Then I added, “Volunteer
to help in a hospital or a
nursing home or pick up your
grandkids after school.”


“Okay climb a mountain
starting in the morning or
walk a beach in the evening.”


“Or start gardening and watch
your garden grow. You never
know what might pop up.”


“Or perhaps, best case scenario:
some afternoon, drop into a
quiet church and sit in the
semi-darkness. Watch the flicker
of the red candles off to the side.”


“Hey, you might be there when
one goes out - and you might
even get up and light one
for yourself. You never know.”


© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Friday, January 29, 2016

January 29, 2016


Blessed are the birds, they don’t have to get
to airports and stand on lines in order to fly
to get to where they want to get.

Blessed are the rivers, the lakes, the ponds,
the oceans and the fish, tiny and giant creatures,
they know without them,  there would be no we.

Blessed are the trees - giving us tables and
chairs, doors and homes, pencils and paper,
and okay - there is always the cross.

Blessed are the flowers - giving us beauty
and color - gift and surprise - poetry and pause -
telling us life is not all business and busyness.

Blessed are the babies - they give us chances
to think of others, end our selfishness, me, me,
me, and give it our best for their future - not ours.

Blessed are the sun and the moon
they give us light and energy by day
and a reason to look up in the night.

Blessed is the wind - it helps sail our boats,
spin our windmills, fly our kites, clear the air
and walk with our God in the cool of the evening.

Blessed are wheat and grapes, they give us bread and wine - and a chance to celebrate moments in memory of Jesus who walked this earth with us.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016
Cf. Laudato Si'

Thursday, January 28, 2016

January 28, 2016


Stop! See what you’re seeing - just in case
you miss all that is right before your eyes.

See the sky - see the ground  - see all that
is in between - but don’t do this in traffic.

See the trees: the deciduous and the evergreen -
and wonder how and why that’s all about.

See the people - smile at the shapes, the sizes,
the wrinkles and the smooth, the young and the old.

Stop! Realize you’re in a library walking by story after story, fiction and non-fiction - history and mystery.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

January 27, 2016


Snow - like a grey white empty silk kimono -
leaning against a cold grey gravestone -
but underneath me - underneath that stone -
the scream that rolls back stones - the scream
called, “Resurrection - Jesus - New  Life.”

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Tuesday, January 26, 2016


Today we celebrate the feast of two early Christian Saints: Timothy and Titus.

Timothy and Titus: sounds like a law firm.

Their names do not appear in the gospels - but they do appear in the other New Testament readings. The name Timothy appears 24 times in the New Testament. That’s a lot more than most of the Apostles. Titus’ name appears 15 times in the New Testament.

Both met Paul when they were young men. Both travelled with Paul. Check Galatians 2: 1 ff. and hear about Titus.

Check out Acts 16: 1-3 and hear about Timothy. Timothy becomes a close companion to Paul - starting with Paul first meeting him at Lystra.


There are some options for today’s readings. I’m using the ones that appear in the Lectionary. I went with the first reading that appears there for today’s feast: 2nd Timothy 1: 1-8.

Timothy was part Jewish - from his mother, Eunice. We even get his grandmother’s name: Lois.  His dad was Greek. They come from up in Galatia.

Titus was a Gentile on both his mom and dad’s side.

The literature implies that Timothy was more fearful and hesitant than Titus.

Using the letter “T” - Timothy was timid; Titus had tact.

Today’s gospel from Luke 10:1-9 mentions traveling 2 by 2. I don’t know if these 2 travelled specifically together. It doesn’t sound like that - but I did spot one connection: Titus replaced Timothy at Corinth. I spotted that in an article on St. Titus by R.G. Boucher in the New Catholic Encyclopedia.

We get glimpses of what these two men were like from the different mentions in the New Testament.

I assume that Paul figured out who they were and what they were like by being with them and depending on them.

Paul used both these men to bring messages to others - as well as organizing and running local Christian communities.  Paul used Titus to enter a hornet’s nest for Paul: Corinth.

I caught a smile from the gospel here in the Lectionary for today, Luke 10:1-9.  Jesus says that he sent out his disciples 2 by 2 and said, “Carry no money bags.” Surprise that’s one of the jobs Paul used both Timothy and Titus to do.

Timothy is reported to have been stoned to death and killed when he was 80 years of age.

Titus also makes it to old age - being made a bishop in Crete. As far as I know, he died a natural death.

There are 2 Letters to Timothy and 1 to Titus in our bible. They are called part of the so called “Pastoral Letters.”  They give us a few tidbits or quick snapshots into a Church that is growing and developing. We notice that folks get some bumps and bruises when personalities rub into each other.

Some people say - when there are difficulties: the issue is always money.

I say it’s always people.


I can place, move, put this piece of paper here - then I can pick it up and place it over here. Then I can pick it up quickly and move it right over to here.  

In doing this I don’t have to ask the piece of paper if I can move it.  But if this is a person, I have to think twice. I have to take another’s temperature. I have to figure out from past experiences, how to ask nicely, what this other person likes and what have you.


I hope today’s feast encourages all of us to do our best as Christian disciples of Christ.

In case nothing I said has any energy for you as a thought for the day - let me end with this message. In today’s first reading Paul says to Timothy, “Don’t be a coward. Let the spirit in you catch fire again. Blow on the fire. Give it some extra air." Wind, fresh air, is  an image of the Holy Spirit, so Paul is saying, "Catch fire and let your powers  of peace and love and self control roll. Get hot, but keep cool."

January 26, 2016


If we hang around religion long enough we
will have heard the words of Psalm 51: 6-7,
“Wash me until I am whiter than snow.”

Or Isaiah’s 1:18 words, “Come now,
let us talk this over…. Though your
sins are like scarlet, they shall be 
as white as snow, though they be
crimson, they shall be like wool.”

Looking out my window this snowy 
January morning I can see the white
beautiful world. All is covered with snow.
All the potholes and broken front steps
are covered over at least for a moment. 
The optimist in me feels that the world 
and our homes are bright and beautiful
and clean - glistening - this cold morning.

Then the realist, the pessimist, the me
in me thinks:  Covering over - putting 
a white napkin on the spaghetti stain - 
on this beautiful white table cloth is nice - 
for now - but then again - there is always the
underneath, underneath the cloth of snow..

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Monday, January 25, 2016



The title of my homily for this feast of the Conversion of St. Paul  is, “A Two-read Book.”

I never heard that phrase before….

Last night before going to sleep I grabbed a magazine to read - just to get more tired.  It was an old 2007 copy of the Sunday New York Times Magazine. It didn’t come in yesterday with the snow,  so maybe that’s why I read this old issue. I might have read it years ago - and that’s why I saved it.

I began reading an interview of the hockey player, Sean Avery - who was playing at that time for the New York Rangers.

In the interview he was asked, the question, “Books You’re Reading?” and he answered, “Guns, Germs and Steel,” by Jared Diamond. He added, “A friend recommended it to me…” Then he said, “I think it’s a two-read book. I’m battling through it the first time, and then I’ll go at it again.”

I looked up on Google what the book was about. It’s non-fiction. It’s about geography and geology and a host of other complex issues. It’s about why Eurasian Countries have done better than African and Island countries.

Interesting …. However, I was more intrigued by the idea of a two-read book.


I asked myself about books I’ve read more than once.

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis was definitely a two, three, four re-read book. 

I remember I read a biography of Vincent Lebbe, a Vincentian Priest, Thunder in the Distance 4 Times.

I read With God in Russia two times at least. It’s the autobiography of Walter Ciszek, the Jesuit priest who got embedded in a Siberian Concentration camp. Fascinating read.

So too the book, The Road Less Travelled by M. Scott Peck. I read that at least 2 times and sections 3, 4 and 5 times. In fact I’ve listened to the audio take of that book a bunch of times as well.

So I’ve done re-reads  - the idea of re-reading something more than once.

 How about you? I’m sure we’ve done that with articles, poems, letters, cards. That’s easier than a whole book.


First answer, I had to come up with a homily for this Mass and this thing I read about last night was fresh on my mind.

Next:  today we’re celebrating the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul.

He did an about face on how he read Judaism, the Law, and what he was hearing about Christ and his new Way of doing Judaism and life.

And Paul tells about his change - his conversion - his about face - his confession in the Acts of the Apostles as well as in his letters.

And come to think about it, we’ve all heard and read over and over again the Letters of St. Paul.

And come to think about all this and to consider all this - many of us have  taken Bible Study Classes or talks on St. Paul.

In this homily I would say that the key point I would think is to write down what we learned - and then read and re-read what we learned and have written down.

Take Paul’s Letter to the Romans. I have read Karl Barth and Karl Rahner’s books on Paul’s Letter to the Romans. I’ve studied Stanislaus Lyonnet’s book on the Letter to the Romans - so too Martin Luther’s book on Romans - plus I’ve read and re-read St. Augustine’s take on St. Paul and his key messages - in Augustine’s Confessions - certainly another re-read.

Good.  Good boy. But till I can sit there and express clearly how I have grown - changed - been converted - when it comes something I read in Paul’s words or about Paul’s words, I’m all words.

Like that hockey player, I think we should realize how hard re-reads are - but if we re-read something we might get to the heart of his matter and experience significant changes - places where we are being called to  being changed.


Today we celebrate Paul’s conversion, his about face, his re-reading of the Law and the Prophets - especially what Christ and Christianity is all about.

A clear specific answer would be the Law and Practice of why we are going to Mass on the Sabbath.

Yesterday was a perfect example - with the big snow storm. The Archbishop of Baltimore said we don’t have to go to Mass because of the snow.  Was that common sense? Or would folks feel guilty by staying home and playing it safe?

Paul would scream what Jesus said, “The law is made for us and not vice versa - so stay home as the diocese screamed and save your car and your body from crashing. Amen.



Martin Luther, Preface to the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans

Karl Barth, The Epistle to the Romans, translated from the Sixth Edition by Edwyn C. Hoskyns, Oxford University Press, 1972

Vincent Taylor, The Epistle to the Romans, London 1955

Ernest Kasemann, Commentary on Romans, 1980

Stanislaus Lyonnet, Epistle to the Romans
January 25, 2016


What’s the secret of getting someone to switch
from a scowl to a smile, from a stone face to a
smiling face, from a face that is elsewhere to a
smiling face right here, right now? One answer:
walk in with a baby in your arms. It works even
in nursing homes, or when stopped for speeding,
or in airports filled with people dealing with 100
flight cancellations. Oops, another answer: smile!

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Sunday, January 24, 2016


The title of my homily for this Third Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year C - is, “Owning Your Own Bible.”

It’s a good topic and theme for a day like today - we're home and outside the world is closed down because of the snow. 

Moreover, the readings are about reading the sacred scriptures.  

In the first reading from the Book of Nehemiah,  Ezra the priest stands on a wooden platform - that was constructed for the moment - and he reads from the sacred scrolls to the whole assembly of the people.

They are back from the Babylonian Captivity. They are rebuilding homes and walls. They are rebuilding their lives as Jews. They are rebuilding their faith. So they better listen to their words, their scriptures, their sacred words, words that can ground them better with their roots.


The writings in both readings were on scrolls - that were unrolled.

We read this in Nehemiah - and also in today’s gospel.

If you have ever been to a Bar or Bas Mitzvah - the young girl or young boy receives the scroll where the text they have chosen is written. The Rabbi takes the scrolls from a box, a  closet, a tabernacle, in center - like our tabernacle.

[Boca Raton, 
synagogue - 
welded brass 
on copper - 
10 feet high and 
6 feet wide.]

The young person reads the scrolls like Ezra and Jesus did, as well as give a commentary. Then their job in life is to take the words they choose and put some flesh into them.


Question: where is your Bible? Do you have a Bible - with your name on it?

Many people are given a Bible at their Confirmation or Bar or Bas Mitzvah. Do you still have yours - if you received such a gift?

Enshrine it. Treasure it. Reverence it. Put it in a sacred place. Know where it is. Use it. Pray with it.

Favorite Story: one of my favorite stories about a Bible - and I’ve told this story many times - goes like this.  

A couple were getting married. An uncle gives the couple an expensive leather bound Bible in a big box as a wedding present.

For the next 20 years every time he sees them, he asks them about that wedding gift he gave them: the leather bound Bible. They said, “Yes, wonderful, we use it all the time.” They didn’t - but they didn’t want to upset their uncle - whom they wrote off as a church goer. 

When they received it, they had opened up the box slightly - saw what it was in it and said, “Nice!” to themselves. It went onto the top shelf of a closet and into another closet if they moved - never to be opened.

Then one evening, their daughter - while doing her high school home work - asked her mom and dad, “Do we have a Bible? I need one for an essay I have to write for home work.”  

Mom said, “I think there is one in the top of the closet over there. Uncle Jack gave us a nice one for our wedding.”

Their daughter got a chair - stood on it - and got up into the top of the closet and sure enough found a nice strong cardboard box. She opened it - said, "Good!" and brought the Bible to the dining room table where she was doing her paper.

60 seconds later she came running into the evening news which her mom and dad were watching and was yelling, “Mom, dad, there’s money in here in this Bible. Lots of money - all 20 dollar bills.”

Their Uncle had put a 20 dollar bill at the beginning of every chapter of that bible. It was a Catholic Bible - that’s 73 times 20 dollars.

Well, they were embarrassed - but they called their uncle - and made their confession and their thanks.

I like that story. I heard another version. Instead of 20 dollar bills it was a gift car from daddy to son.


I also love the story about the Dead Sea Scrolls. In 1947 a Bedouin Kid with kid goats had one get lost and perhaps got into a cave. 

Well, the kid climbed into the cave and the rest is history.  By 1967 or so - 11 caves had been found and cleaned up - with over 50,000 pieces of scrolls and scrolls of all sorts.

The oldest Old Testament complete texts at the time were from the 900’s with some earlier fragments. In one great find and leap, the world now jumped back almost 2000 years.

I like to say that everyone has caves within them that contain the Bible - that is if we went to church - read the readings, heard the readings - what have you - and they got embedded in our memory.

They just have to be discovered - unrolled - and read.

Cave in!


One of the world’s top New Testament Biblical Scholar is Joseph Fitzmyer - 95 years of age or so - from Philadelphia - a Jesuit.  I once took a workshop in Chicago that he was giving on Luke and the Acts of the Apostles.  

At that workshop, I just happened to walk with him after lunch going back to the place where we were staying. I asked him, “When it comes to the Bible, what was the most interesting thing you ever experienced in your life?”

He stopped and told me about the time he was doing some work on the Dead Sea Scrolls.

He was brought into a special room in Israel. There they had 50 some pieces of scraps from a Dead Sea Scroll Cave. Many scrolls in the caves had been in jars - to preserve them, but some jars had broken - and parts of the scrolls were broken off and were scattered on the floor of the caves.

He was to take a scrap of leather scroll, scape off the dirt - which included bird droppings - and then study the piece and see what was written on it.  Then he would write on an index card over here what he read. So that was scrap one - and index card one - placed on the table and he would do all 50 scraps that way.

Yes - amazing. Who would have thought someone would have a story like that as the most amazing thing they ever did?

What I got out of that for this sermon is the following.

Not only do many of us have a Bible hidden in some cave or cellar or closet inside of us - but we also often don't take the time to dust off favorite texts that have become part of us - without us realizing it.


In today’s gospel Jesus goes into synagogue and the Scroll of Isaiah 61 is opened for him and he reads it - and then says, “Today this text is fulfilled in your midst.”

Whenever I do a funeral, I ask the family, “Did your husband or your father or mother or sister have a favorite Bible text?”

The last funeral I had the family said their dad didn’t do church - and if he went - he’d be in the back bench. 

We priests run into many a Catholic who is in that position. 

Then the family added that it’s funny that their dad will be up front in the casket tomorrow for his funeral. 

I said, “I love Luke 15. Read those 3 stories in that chapter  from Jesus and you’ll see where Pope Francis is getting his material about forgiveness and mercy. This is where he got his open door policy.”

I concluded. "Be at peace and let God be God to your father. Even though you said he rarely went to church, let God be good to your dad - as he was good to you."

The funeral I had just a few days  before that one was for a man whose daughter said to me, “My dad loved the Beatitudes. Could you read that as the gospel for his funeral Mass and could you explain why my dad loved them.”

I didn't know why he loved the beatitudes, but from what I heard about her dad, I did weave some thoughts of mercy for him as well.

St. Alphonsus Liguori, the founding father of us Redemptorists, loved today’s gospel and chose it as his inaugural address. It tells us what redemption and mercy are all about: opening up or unrolling the scriptures, hearing Good News brought to us who are poor, discovering freedom when feeling captive, having our eyes opened - from our blindness - and going free. [Cf. Luke 4: 16-19; Isaiah 61: 1-2]


My favorite text in the Bible is Galatians 6:2, “Bear one another’s burdens and in this way you’ll fulfill the Law of Christ.”

I asked that Galatians 6:2 be read at my funeral.

What is your text? What do you want read at your funeral?

Better: Not what is your death text, but what is your life text? 
January 24, 2016


Snap! Crackle! Pop!
Put your ear close to
a bowl of Rice Krispies
and you’ll hear those
crispy, crackly, sounds.

Listen - better look into
another person’s eyes.
You’ll sense deep down
God sounds, screams as
well as silent joys. Honestly….

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016