Saturday, February 13, 2016

February 13, 2016


My brother always said,
“Only buy a house with
gas heat in the kitchen.
When you really want to cook,
elective ovens never do it.”
I’d say, “Only buy a house
with stand up cast iron radiators - 
waist high radiators that let 
you know they are there 
for you on a cold, cold 
February day like today. 
Bang! Crash! Crunk! Rattle! 
Rock and Roll! Listen to them
yelling to you, Get over here
and get your butt against me.
Baby it’s cold outside.”

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Friday, February 12, 2016


As I read today’s first reading from Isaiah 58: 1-9a, I realized this is a document that our Church needs to read on a regular basis, especially at the beginning of Lent.  So here are 11 questions - to ponder before rereading Isaiah 58: 1-9 - as well as today’s Gospel - Matthew 9: 14-15 - today’s readings  which I placed at the bottom of  this questionnaire.

Who’s more important: you or me?

When I come to a door when I am walking with another person, do I let the other person in ahead of me?

When I come to a door and  another person is coming out, do I let that person out as I hold the door for them and then I go in?

Is the goal of our religion to save our soul or to be concerned for the welfare of our brothers and sisters.

Is the purpose of Lent to fast from food or fast from selfishness?

If Lent was seen as attending a wedding, would Lent be any different this year for you? How so? [Cf. today’s gospel Matthew 9: 14-15.]

Three people walked down the road from Jerusalem to Jericho in the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Who were they thinking about and aware of: self or the man who was beaten up and robbed? [Cf. Luke 10: 25-37]

When I hear the Parable of Two Men who went to the Temple to Pray, which of the two am I? [Cf. Luke 18: 9-14]

When I’m walking from my bench in church up to the front of church to receive communion, whom am I thinking of? Myself? Those I’m on line with? Those other folks whom I’m being brought into deeper communion into Christ with?

After communion am I concentrating on Christ within me - in the tabernacle of my body and being - or more with Christ in the tabernacles of all these people I’m in the church with today or with Christ in the tabernacle up here in the front of our church - the tabernacle behind the altar?

Whom does the Pope think he is in all of this?



Thus says the Lord GOD:
Cry out full-throated and unsparingly,
lift up your voice like a trumpet blast; 
Tell my people their wickedness,
and the house of Jacob their sins. 
They seek me day after day,
and desire to know my ways,
Like a nation that has done what is just
and not abandoned the law of their God;
They ask me to declare what is due them,
pleased to gain access to God.
“Why do we fast, and you do not see it?
afflict ourselves, and you take no note of it?”

Lo, on your fast day you carry out your own pursuits,
and drive all your laborers.
Yes, your fast ends in quarreling and fighting,
striking with wicked claw.
Would that today you might fast
so as to make your voice heard on high!
Is this the manner of fasting I wish,
of keeping a day of penance:
That a man bow his head like a reed
and lie in sackcloth and ashes?
Do you call this a fast,
a day acceptable to the LORD?
This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking every yoke;
Sharing your bread with the hungry,
sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
and not turning your back on your own.
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed;
Your vindication shall go before you,
and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer,
you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am!


The disciples of John approached Jesus and said, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast much, but your disciples do not fast?”

Jesus answered them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the Bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.”
February 12, 2016

February 12, 2016


Every time I talked to this person,
they would say, “What’s wrong with _____?”

        “What’s wrong with the world?”

        “What’s wrong with doctors?”

        “What’s wrong with pastors?”

        “What’s wrong with politicians?”

        “What’s wrong with people?”

And, ooops, I caught myself saying,
“What’s wrong with this person?”

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Thursday, February 11, 2016

DEUTERONOMY 30: 15-20 


The title of my homily for this Thursday after Ash Wednesday is, “Deuteronomy 30: 15-20: Choosing Life or Death.”

I’ve never been a Biblical Name and Number Dropper - but Deuteronomy 30: 15-20 is a good text to know and easy to remember.

Moses lines up all the people and says, “Take a good look what is right in front of you. This stuff over here will give you death and doom and destruction. This stuff over here will bring you life and blessing. Obviously, choose what gives life - not the stuff that can kill you.”


I once spotted a discarded audio tape with a talk by a Harvard biology professor: George Wald.

George was born in Brooklyn - from Jewish parents - who came to America from Europe way back in the early 1900’s. 

He was in the first graduating class from Brooklyn Tech - a high school most kids from Brooklyn know was one great school. He went to NYU, Columbia, and various other schools in both the United States and Europe.

In other words he got a great education. For starters, that's one great way to choose life.

In the audio tape  talk he said his favorite text in the Bible was today’s first reading about how God sets before us both life and death. Therefore choose life.

George Wald did great work and research on the human eye - specifically the retina - and stressed the importance of vitamins.

I looked his biography and life stuff on Google and found out he certainly was for life - not destruction.


He was off on inner seeing as well.

He thought we in the United States spend too much money, time and effort on how to kill better and better. He was early on against the Vietnam War and each battle the United States got interested in after that.

Many of us grew up seeing these battles going on in politics, newspapers, TV, etc. etc. etc. all through the 1900’s - the last century.

One of the benefits of being 76 years old is the ability to say what we think.

It took me a while to form my attitudes about what George Wald and so many so called “Lefties” and “Liberals” are saying.

I know people are pretty much stuck in their ways of thinking and seeing - about all this -  and politicians work to get their votes on these issues.


Now to choose life isn't easy. Hello. It calls for sacrifice - dying to self. That's exactly what today's gospel is saying: that very message from Jesus. [Confer Luke 9: 22-25]

I would assume that's the key reason why we don't choose life - but death. It's laziness - the avoidance of tough love - it's the avoidance of hard work - not wanting to die to self - that is at the heart of why folks choose death.


The title of my homily is, “Deuteronomy 30: 15-20: Choosing Life or Death.”

I want to urge looking at this topic and theme not just when considering abortions - but at the whole run of life - building walls to block our immigrants, carpet bomb Muslims, etc. etc. etc.

In the pulpit, I try to avoid using the pulpit as a bully pulpit.

It’s my experience that people don’t hear anything else once the speaker or the preacher says the buzz words.

So I rather avoid the political stage and try to understand what Jesus was saying when he said, “I have come that you might have life and have it to the full.”

I rather reflect upon everyday decisions we all have to choose life or death.

By this I would mean eating right, walking, talking right - avoiding killer comments, gossip and all that.

I would rather look at this day - all that’s going to be right in front of me and decide: “Today I want to choose life. Today I want to be kind. Today I want to compliment people.”

For me being a Diabetic - second type - I simply have avoid  cookies and pie today - and walk and exercise. Amen.

February 11, 2016

Lord, guide me
through these 40 days of Lent.

Protect me and direct me:
be a cloud above me this day
and a pillar of fire above me this night.

Remind me to take some moments today to go
with you into the mountains of prayer,
where I might see you transfigured before me.

Enter into my temple this day; walk around;
remind me when I’m too busy buying and selling;
and cleanse me of my idols.

Lord, help me this day to be like you:
a grain of wheat willing to die
so that others might live.

© Andy Costello,
Markings Prayers, March 1994

Wednesday, February 10, 2016


 The title of my homily is, “Expect Crumble.”

It’s an obvious thought that hits me probably every Ash Wednesday - so I’m sure I have other homilies on this theme.

Expect crumble.

The other theme that hits me from the Ash Wednesday readings is visiting the inner room that Jesus talks about in today’s gospel.

There’s something in us - that resists external religion - show - posturing - ceremony.

Today’s readings certainly hit that - and then we get on our face - in our face - on our forehead - the external sign of ashes today. I always think this is funny.  Ash Wednesday: we’re told to wash our face - no externals - no showing off - and then we get ashes. Funny! We see all these people walking around town or the Mall or in Giant today with ashes on.

There’s a Lenten Mass when Jesus talks about the Pharisees in fine linen and purple - and the priest in fine white cloth and purple reads that. Funny.

So Jesus knows the inner - inside - real religion stuff - and the phony possibility side shows - that happen with religion and priests and people.

I also think those who drop out of coming to this big inner room - called a church -  this place - this house - of prayer - I think they can have a decent list of reasons - for not coming here. I hear them saying - including various members of my own family, “I’m spiritual. I’m just not into this religion stuff.”

I suspect they also don’t enter the small inner room that Jesus talks about in today’s gospel - inside every person. Come Sunday morning. No, I don’t think most of these people who state they are spiritual and not religious - I don’t think they are not taking a nice walk through the Naval Academy - edge - along the water - or in Quiet Water’s Park - being in deep communion with God - or sitting on a back porch - sitting inside their inner room.

Okay Jesus also goes after that kind of judging others as well.  So…

So enough of that….

So let me give a quick thing on crumble - the everything turns to ashes - theme. It’s something we all need to spend time within with.

A rabbi on one of the debates a week ago or so quoted to candidate Hilary Clinton an old rabbinic question. Maybe you heard the question. He said there is an old saying we have two pieces of paper in our pockets. In one pocket a  piece of paper says, “The universe was created for you.” And in another pocket is another piece of paper that says, “Everything turns to ashes.”  Then he asked her, “When you look at your life, what’s your take on that?”

Ego vs. humility…..

I don’t think she answered it, but she did refer to it later on. I suspect she was saying to herself, “What the heck was that all about?”

On the one hand we have to think that God made us - and gave us this whole big wide wonderful world as a gift.

I think of parents waiting for that first child - I’m the fourth - I think of parents waiting for that first child - and they are going to give that kid the world.

I hope every kid gets that blessing - that they were waited for - celebrated - loved - adored - tickled and love.

I hope every kid gets a great spot on the couch - in their daddy’s arms - in their grandmother’s hugs - and all that. Praise God - along with a great education.

But we also have to learn about crumble. 

Expect crumble.

Expect humble.

Expect cancer and accidents and things going wrong.

The bicycle wheel goes flat and daddy can’t fix it. We get cuts on our arms and knees and cuts from the play or a team.

Grandpa dies.

Dogs die.

The cookie crumbles.

Parents sometimes divorce.

Sometimes people are selfish or dumb or they don’t realize impact of behavior on others.

Life. It’s wonderful - but sometimes like Forest Gump - you know what happens - It Happens. It hits the fan at times.  Jenny messes up and takes drugs and dumps Forest. Lieutenant Dan loses his legs.

Hurt happens.

Crumble happens.

Lent is a good time to come to church - as well as go into one’s inner room and ponder all these heavy messages.

There’s more than two pieces of paper.

Grab some of the literature out in the lobby and take some good walks for the next 40 days.

And like Forest Gump, run, or walk till you figure out stuff about life  - life being like a box of chocolates and stuff your mom used to say - and her mom and her mom and her dad - and on and on and on.

February 10, 2016


A smudge of ashes,
a sign of the cross,
a sign of hope,
a new beginning,
a phoenix from the ashes. 
Lenten resolutions, Lenten
The Christian paradox:
dying to live,
dying to self,
rising for others,  
becoming empty to become filled. 
Lord Jesus, denied, betrayed,
burnt, seared and crucified,
walk with me, talk with me,
be with me on this way of the cross
to Calvary, to Resurrection,
always rising from our ashes.

© Andy Costello
Markings Prayers,
March 1995

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

February 9,  2016


Best  word?
Best sentence?
Best moment?

Thank you.
Being born.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Monday, February 8, 2016



The title of my homily for this 5th Monday in Ordinary Time is, “How Touching.”

The last sentence in today’s gospel - in English - has this long sentence, “Whatever villages or towns or countryside he entered, they laid the sick in the market place and begged him that they might touch the tassel on his cloak; and as many as touched it were healed.” [Mark 6:56]

I began reflecting on that idea of touching  - being touched - for a homily idea - for today.


A good life question could be, “Who touched us?”  “Who influenced our lives?”  “Who has healed us?”

It could have been a great high school teacher who saw us bullied - and they asked to see us after school one day - and asked about our feelings, our hurt, our pain - and we told them and we were healed.

It could have been an aunt or an uncle who was there for us when we didn’t feel our parents weren’t there for us.

It could have been a counselor, a friend, a neighbor, who helped us because we didn’t know how to do something.

It might have been at work - our first job - and someone took us under their wing - and they taught us how to fly.

Who touched you?  That’s a good life time question.


For some it might be a movie, a play, a story, a song, a poem or a prayer.

I’ll never forget a moment in an Arthur Miller play, The Price, when one brother says to the other brother something like this, “You want the God-Almighty hand shake and you’re not going to get it.” I was moved enough to say, “I’ll never do that.”

I saw a grandmother with a grandson once and she snook a folded $20 dollar bill into his hand as he was going out the door to an outing. I said to her, “That was nice.”

She said, “Oh yeah, I remember being with kids on a bus ride to an amusement park when we were kids and I had no money. We were poor - dirt poor - and I sat on benches and walked around all day and didn’t get on any rides and I wouldn’t want any kid to feel what I felt that day.”

How touching.


Talk about touching - how about the Art of the Covenant - which is central to  today’s First Reading - 1 Kings 8: 1-7, 9-13.

The Ark of the Covenant - was the sacred box of the covenant - that held the 10 commandments. It was made of wood - 4 foot long, 2 ½ inches high and 2 ½   inches high. It was gold plated. It held the 10 Commandments.

It was a sign of God’s presence,

Just seeing it was a powerful experience for many in Israel when it was paraded around town and into battle or what have you. If someone touched it they could be paralyzed or killed. Yet it was stolen - and used in battle because it was supposed to have power.

Sacred objects send out signals of awe!

If you’re my age you’ve seen the change in touching religious objects - chalices, hosts, communion, crumbs…. You’ve seen people going up to the tabernacle and taking out the ciborium and bringing Christ to the sick and the home bound.

How many Eucharistic Ministers have had life changing thoughts and prayers and feelings in bringing Jesus to someone who is sick?

The tabernacle, the Ark of the Covenant, up here in our sanctuary is mighty important,  but Jesus is in there as food - food for us - food for the sick - food for the journey.


The title of my homily is, “How Touching.”

My message is to reflect upon  the touching moments, the healing moments, the significant moments of our lives. Amen.
February 8, 2016


Sometimes - some mornings - some people
feel like they are stuck in a bed of dark
brown mud. Debts, doubts, dumb mistakes,
have slid down on top of them. Mud slides.
It does just that - down on top of us - on
and on - day after day after day - of cold rain -
and the roots that held our life from slipping -
have been pulled away with the mud - till all
that is left is bare rock and ripped roads.
Ever feel this way? Ever been dropped?
Ever been dumped? Ever been fired?
Ever been walked out on? Ever been
hurt - really hurt and you didn’t see it
coming?  Sounds so dramatic. It can be.
All that mud - all the heavy of that brown
sludge blanket - on top of us - weighing
us down. We feel we can’t move or want
to move and nobody understands. Our
bedroom door is closed. In fact, it’s locked.
We’re crying. We’re dying. What to do?
Get up. Get out of bed. Stretch. Shake.
Take a good shower - a long, long shower.
Get as much of that mud off your back.
Get dressed. Get some food into the system.
Pray a scream prayer. Get to work. Talk
to someone. Better: quick do something
sweet for someone who feels depressed. It's
a long, long time - till tonight - another night.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Sunday, February 7, 2016

James Tissot  
Brooklyn Museum 


The title of my homily for this 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time [C] is, “My Net Worth.”

Before we die, do we look at our life - the life we lead - and make a judgment on our net worth?

How do people standing there in the funeral parlor or sitting there in the church judge us when we die?  What do they see we netted in our life?

What are those who do our obituary and those who give our eulogy - trying to say about our life - and how they see our net worth?


In today’s gospel Jesus says to Simon Peter, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.”

Simon Peter says to Jesus, “Master we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.”

And we all heard this morning in the gospel of Luke that they went out to the deeper waters and lowered their nets and caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing.

We heard that they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. They came and filled both boats - so that the boats were in danger of sinking.

And when Simon Peter sees all this he falls at the knees of Jesus and says, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”

And everyone that day was astonished and Jesus says to Simon Peter, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.”

And they brought their boats to shore - left everything - and followed Jesus.

Is this the story of life? Sailing through life - lowering and then lifting and then lowering our nets and then lifting them to see what we caught - what is our net worth?

I think Jesus did some deep thinking about sorting out what we are catching in our nets - and making significant switches in our life as we cross the waters of life - in what we [Cf. Matthew 13:47-48]


Whenever we read today’s gospel at Mass, I think of a man named Clement Jedrzewski.

He told me he went to Paris for his University - at the Sorbonne. He was a young man - all alone - and that first month there he saw a notice on a bulletin board about a retreat for young men at a retreat center.

The retreat was given by a famous French Dominican priest, Pere Redinald Marie Garrigou-Lagrange. The first talk began with the reading of today’s gospel Luke 5:1-11.

Then Pere Lagrange paused and looked out at all of us young men and said, “Your whole life is front of you. Launch out into the deep and lower your nets for a catch.”

That memory, that story, today’s gospel, is what triggered my thoughts for this homily.

Clement told me that became his goal in life!

As I look at my nets, I see all the many people whom I caught in my nets. I think of all the people I have met. I think of all those who influenced my life.

So that’s why I see a man named Clement Jedrzewski when I hear this gospel read.  

He was an old man when I met him in the early 1970’s. He was retired and living in a spare room in a retreat house on the Jersey Shore - a place called Stella Maris - Elberon, New Jersey.

I’d say morning Mass there at times and I’d meet Clement and we would chat while enjoying breakfast. He didn’t have a car so I’d bring him shopping now and then. He was from Warsaw, Poland - got his degrees from the Sorbonne in Paris. He worked in a branch of the United Nations or some group like that. He was a poet. He was also  a Sociology Professor for years at St. Francis College, Brooklyn New York. What I became interested in was his theories of how to teach - how to teach future teachers.

Since I was doing high school retreats just up the road at our Retreat House,  I asked Clement how he would give a high school retreat. It was from Clement I learned the value of questions.

He would say, “Everyone has questions. You have to find them out. Teachers, preachers are always answering questions people are not asking.”

This morning are you asking what have you caught in your nets - your life? Are you asking, “How have I changed as life goes on?”

Clement  taught me to ask people on retreat to jot down on paper all their questions they have right now. He’d add, “Say there are no stupid questions only stupid answers.”

Then he said, “First - starting with each individual,  ask the folks on retreat to write down all their questions and then narrow them down to three?”

Then he said, “Put your questions in your pocket and ask everyone to sit with just one other person and jot down all your questions you’re both asking and then narrow them down to 3.”

Then he said, “Put all those questions in your pocket and ask everyone to sit in small groups - but make sure they are people, kids, others, you regularly hang with. Write down all your questions and then narrow them down to three.”

This took a bit of time, but it was worth it.

Then he said, “Have everyone do this as the large group making the retreat - and then narrow down your questions to three?  There now you have three questions from the whole group and that’s the retreat material.”

It was hard work, but it has stayed with me for life.

I stand here in the pulpit, Mass after Mass - knowing you have questions and you might not hear anything about your questions. Sorry.

At least I know that and we both hear the scripture readings - and I wonder what questions they might trigger in your minds and lives.

Today I’m asking, “What are you trying to catch? What’s your net worth so far?”


In today’s first reading from Isaiah, we have the story of a man who went to the temple and he had a God experience.

Evidently, one of his top 3 questions in life was “What is God like?”

And he’s knocked off his moorings with a God Experience. He hears the words we say at every Mass, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of Hosts. All the earth is filled with his glory.”

Then he has the same experience Simon Peter has in today’s gospel: he feels his sinfulness compared to God’s greatness. He puts his hand to his lips realizing the unclean words that come out of his mouth. Then God, the King, the Lord of Hosts sends an angle with burning ember, that he had taken from the altar and touches Isaiah’s lips and his wickedness is removed, his sin is purged.

Then he hears a question from God. Is it one of God’s three questions, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?”  And Isiah says, “Here I am. Send me.”

Is one of my three life questions,  “What does God want me to do? Do I have a calling?”

Are we all like Paul in today’s second reading - who had to dump - empty out of his net - his whole fanaticism about life - and religion can make fanatics of us all. Then on the Road to Damascus he had his God, his Jesus experience, and then he went from there trying to catch people in the net called Jesus.


Heavy duty stuff  - this religious stuff - and there are so many more questions. Ash Wednesday is this week. The first Sunday of Lent is next Sunday. Lent is a good time to get hooked by questions. What are yours?

This week reflect on the image of nets. Think of your networks. Think of your net worth.

A of the key feelings you’ll get if you do this is the feelings of unworthiness - sinfulness. You’ll be hit by regrets - as well as unfinished business.

Relax God is a God of Mercy - forgiveness - and God is a fisherman - trying to catch us in his nets. 

Relax. We’re fish - you know that’s a key Christian Symbol. Each letter of the Greek word for fish - ichthus - stands for a title for Christ. "Jesus Christ - Theos [God] -  Uios [Son]  Savior."

Fish is part of our Lenten heritage. And sometimes fish stink. And sometimes fish make a great meal. Is that the story of our life? Become delicious fish.  Become a great meal for others.

February 7, 2016

[Self Test # 20]

From time to time, we fill out questionnaires.
Name___________, Address___________,
City_____________, State ____________,
Phone Number__________, Age________

Sitting there in a doctor’s waiting room I began
wondering about moods, states of mind, trying
to be steady in my mind in how I am - not just
who I am - realizing sometimes I am nervous.
Sometimes I am kind. Sometimes I’m playful.
And sometimes I am weird.  Angry? Frustrated?

Sometimes I need to be with others to figure
out what state I’m living in? Do I really know?

Delaware? Arizona? Minnesota? Ohio? Iowa?

Those states would be easy to check off.

Is there a mood map? Is there a state of mind map? Is there a list somewhere of possibles?

Circle one: angry, anxious, accusatory, nervous, giving, frustrated, forgiving, understanding, content, joyful, antsy, bored, quiet, lonely, judgmental, itchy, avoiding, tired, lazy, proud - to name a few.

Or would it be better to come up with scales - like 1 to 10, 10 being really bored or angry or content?

Would it help to do some kind of mood or general state of being test for everyone in the house?

What would have the most impact, my answer to what state I’m in or what state I’m in most of the time and what others who know me - would have the courage to list?

When I walk into the room, what do people feel, say in their mind, “Oh yes!” or “Oh no, not again!”?

If I’m a PITA, would anyone have the courage to tell me?

I don’t know about you, but I found out that the results of self-tests can have quite a lasting impact on people.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016