Saturday, February 20, 2016

February 20, 2016


A fly just buzzed me -
coming out of nowhere.
What’s he doing around
here in February?
Why didn’t he fly south
like everyone else and
avoid this cold winter?
I don’t read horoscopes,
but is there any other
buzz  I’m in for?
February needs all
the surprises it can give.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Friday, February 19, 2016

February 19, 2016


I see people that drain me as
I cross the threshold of a room.
Inwardly comes an, “Oh no!”

Obviously, I don’t like all this.
Obviously, I don’t voice this.
Obviously, I move to a wall.

Questions: Why? Why? Why?
Does anyone else feel this way? 
Maybe I'm a pain and drain others?

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Thursday, February 18, 2016

February 18, 2016


I hope I catch myself if I start to play
the game called, “Gotcha”. Why would
anyone do that to another? Why can’t
we simply say, “I don’t know!” or “I rather
not answer that.” I suppose if someone
said either of those comments, then the
other would smile and think, “Gotcha!” 
What I like about Jesus and his Father 
and their Spirit is that our God is not 
a “Gotcha God”, but a “Hold me God.”

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016


The title of my thoughts on this occasion of St. Mary’s Junior’s Ring Ceremony is, “Hard Wired for Transcendence.”[1]

I have heard that phrase before - but I never took the time to spell it  out for myself.

If St. Mary’s doesn’t spell this out - we’re in trouble.

Maybe - but then again - maybe not ….

Not if it’s true that we’re hardwired for transcendence.

I’m assuming everyone is hardwired to get what’s going on when it comes to rings.


It comes from the world of electronics - where circuit boards - or computer chips are hardwired to do certain things - and do them every time with that particular circuit board or chip. That’s what we’re buying - when we buy that circuit board or chip or hard drive.

Applications can be added on to the basic hard drive and machine.

“Hardwired” is spelled as one word, or one two words hyphenated - having that little dash between the hard and the wired, or simply two words.

Then it’s metaphorically transferred to humans. Are all humans hardwired to speak, to laugh, to love, to grow, to want to learn, to explore, and to unravel the universe?

Bees are hard wired to fly, to buzz, to gather honey, Different birds are hard wired to make a certain pattern of chirps.

The title of my reflection here is: “Hard Wired for Transcendence.”

Transcendence - looking up - seeing the invisible in the visible - seeing the divine in the vine. Surprise water is changed into wine every day.

Seeing surprise. Seeing God in the birds of the air - 1000 swallows over a winter field on the road to Ocean City.  Blue Angell pilots can only envy what they can do.  Did you ever see through your front windshield three flocks merge into one and come out the other side three flocks again. How do they know.

Transcendence - trans across - ascent - up - climbing up - needed, celebrated, appreciated - especially when we’re down.

The plane takes off from BWI - runs like an athlete down the runway and then leaps and jumps into the sky - carrying the crowd with it.

Today we’re thinking about rings.

There is a world of difference between a ring in a jewelry store window and a ring on a finger.

There is a world of difference between a ring on a finger and it’s lost and it’s looked for and it’s found a month later. There is a world of difference between a newlyweds wedding ring and a grandparents wedding ring.

Have you ever seen a widow wearing her husband’s wedding ring on a gold chain around her neck?  If she’s your mom or aunt or grandmother look at it and say, “Tell me the story!”

Transcendence, takes us beyond the visible.

Transcendence leads us to story.

Transcendence leads us to awe, oooh, wow. woo moments.

We’re hard wired for transcendence.

So simply savor today - the simplicity and the sacredness of the moment.

Twist your ring around and around and around - and let it take you through the years ahead. Amen.


[1] I noticed this phrase "hard wired for transcedence in a letter by Moira T Carley in the British magazine, The Tablet, page 17, August 8, 2015. Here's the Letter in its entirety, 

Heaney's instinct for grace

I am grateful for Eamon Duffy’s words on the Catholic imagination of Seamus Heaney. (“All God and no religion”, 27 June).  A friend introduced me to Heaney’s poetry in the 1980’s when he was teaching at Harvard and I was a student there. My doctoral work was to apply Canadian philosopher theologian Bernard Lonergan’s thought on learning to the practice of teaching. It was a tough slog but I did it - thanks to the poetry of Heaney which often became my ballast reading, nourishing my imagination after a tough day with Lonergan. I understood that both men were coming from the same conviction that all humans are hard wired for transcendence. I also understood that the inevitability of form needs both creative expressions. Later, I was able to pass on this insight to many of my university students.

I finally met Heaney in person in 2002 in Montreal. When I thanked him for writing: “whatever is given can be re-imagined”, he twinkled this reply: “I kinda like that one myself.” Reading Duffy’s words crediting Heaney's poetic expression of events “that catch the heart off guard and blow it open” as “as eloquent an utterance as we are likely to have about the meaning of what a Christian might call the work of grace” reminded me of something Lonergan wrote. “The experience of grace … is the experienced of a transformation one did not bring about but rather underwent … as it lets one’s circumstances shift, one dispositions change, new encounters occur, and - so gently and quietly - one’s heart be touched.”
February 17, 2016


Fish don’t see that hook,
just the worm - the fly - so too
the comment another makes.
We bite. We jump. We’re caught.
Every time…. When will I learn
not to take the bait - and just
continue to enjoy
the river -  the pond - the lake?

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016
February 16, 2016

Potato peels sticking to the inside of a big blue
plastic garbage can. The rest of the potato is
gone. It had made the cut. It was mashed - 
with some milk - and then big spooned  into a solid white porcelain bowl and placed next 
to the pot roast on the big white table cloth - along with everything that made up a great
big delicious Sunday evening family dinner.

Back to the potato peels sticking to the
inside of that big blue plastic garbage can.

There they stayed for 3 more days. The next
time they slid out of the can and into the garbage truck - and then headed to  the garbage dump.

Those peels are still there in the dump -
two years now - dried up, rained on, covered over, still existing, still lasting. The mashed
potatoes. They were delicious - but soon forgotten by 6:30  PM that Sunday eve.

As it stands - if I had a choice - I’d want to be
a potato peel - still wondering what my future is -
what will happen before I disappear into this land
fill or _____________________________?  

At least I’m still around after all these years.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Tuesday, February 16, 2016


There are all kinds of meetings - every day - all around the world.

Friends have coffee or lunch together. Buddies meet to plan an upcoming Pop Warner Football season. Families get together for a cruise to celebrate their parents 50th anniversary. Engineers, architects, surgeons, get together for every week as well as their annual meeting every year in some great spot or city.

There are all kinds of meetings - every day - all around the world.

Most, 999 out a 1,000 meetings we never hear about. There might be minutes, decisions, announcements, but no - not our luck to know what happened.

There are secret meetings. There are public meetings. There are boring meetings. There are meetings that fail. A couple finally see a marriage counselor - but one of the spouses refuses to communicate.

So I was surprised - and not so surprised - when I accidentally heard in today’s first reading from Isaiah about a meeting God had with his creations that took place out there in the open fields.

The rain was asked: “What do you do?”

The snow was asked, “What do you do?”

The seeds were asked, “What do you do?”

And words were asked, “What do you do?”

Give an account of your stewardship.

“Well,” said the rain. “I don’t know why you ask me. I fill 78 percent of the earth with water,  so people can sail the oceans. I give water to drink - from rivers, lakes, reservoirs, and wells. I help crops grow - in fields, backyards. I am part of everyone. If they get dehydrated - they come looking for me.”

The snow said, “I don’t get as good a press and publicity as rain. I’m slower, colder, and often avoided. That is, unless someone is a skier or the manager of reservoir in Nevada or California - that needs all the water it can get. I can be beautiful. I know you can’t eat beautiful,   but snow is like that frost on the top shelf of so many refrigerators - that keep ice cream cold. I’m mostly quiet - quiet like the North and South Poles. It’s in reserve - for years to come. Right now with global warming - people are starting to notice the gift in the wings that I can be - especially as polar caps collapse.

The seeds were ready and willing to speak up. “We seeds work together with farmers and the soil, the earth, along with water and the sun and in time you can see what we can  be - what we can become. Trees, wheat, barley, rye, potatoes, grapes, wine, strawberries, people.” Ooops I can become bread and surprise: Eucharist.

Words came last. Everyone was listening to what the words were about to say. “I know some  people can be all talk - and not message.  I know people can babble - as when some people pray - without thinking a word about what they are praying. But words can be inspirational. Words can be prayers as in the Our Father.  And surprise: the word became flesh and lived/lives amongst us.

Monday, February 15, 2016


[Today’s  two  readings for this First Monday in Lent have some great specific and practical stuff on how to love one another. And did you notice at the end of today’s first reading, we have one version of the Golden Rule: Love your neighbor as yourself. So this morning I decided on writing a short simple story called, “The Golden Rule.” Cf. Leviticus 19:1-2, 11-18 and Matthew 25: 31-36.]

When Jack’s father died, Jack got to give his father’s eulogy.

He had 3 or 4 days to think about it and he typed into his computer page after page of wonderful stories about how great a guy his dad was - being so kind to everyone he met.

He wrote down things like, “Once the whole family was in the car and we were heading home from Sunday Mass. It was a really nasty winter day. Suddenly dad pulled the car to the curb and stopped. All of us in the car were wondering what he was about to do.

“He opened up the car door. The wind was howling. Standing there in the cold  he took his overcoat off. He had spotted a homeless guy who only had a flannel shirt on. He walked over and put the coat on the guy and handed him a $20.  Didn’t say a word. Headed back to our car. Pulled away from the curb and continued on our way home.”

He had pages and pages and pages of stories just like that one.

His dad was something else. Then he began to think about his father being a man of few words. “KISS - Keep it Simple Stupid” would be a life principle for him. But he never heard his dad say that - but his dad lived that message.

What his dad did say and say often was, “The Golden Rule.”

So to keep it simple and to say very little at his dad’s funeral,  Jack said something like the following.

“Good Morning. Thank you for being here at our dad’s funeral.

“Our dad was a man of few words - but a man of lots of action.

“Ever since we were little kids he would say to us, ‘The Golden Rule.’

“At first we didn’t know what that meant - but in time we knew exactly what those three words, “The Golden Rule” meant.

“After Mass someone would say, “That was a long llllllllooooonggg sermon.”

“And sometimes our dad would respond, ‘The Golden Rule.’

“We didn’t know if he meant, ‘Stop complaining. You wouldn’t want people complaining about you, would you?’ or ‘The priest took 15 minutes to say, “The Golden Rule.”’

“So to keep it simple and to sum it all up,  our dad was The Golden Rule - or our dad taught us the Golden Rule.

“Do good stuff to others because wouldn’t you like good stuff to happen to you and don’t do things that hurt others, because who wants to be hurt. Amen!”

Then Jack went back down to his bench in church - first touching his dad’s casket - saying under  his breath, “Thanks dad, thank.”

February 15, 2016


The Bible and the Street - in fact, every conversation -
tells us the Best and the Worst - is always on the edge
of everything. Let’s be honest - there are moments in
the mix of every day - when we feel the Best and the
Worst. We can laugh and give another a compliment
or  - we can let slide out of the side of our mouth - a
slur or a slight put down - to bring down another - who 
seems too big for themselves lately - or we just don't like them and we don't care to know why - or

we don't know why we do the Big Nasty. War or Peace - the Best or the Worst - is never too far away from us.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Sunday, February 14, 2016



The title of my homily is, “Power and Control.”

Today is the First Sunday of Lent and I would assume that Lent is a time to do some deep thinking about some of the great issues of life: time, purpose, people, relationships, family, communication, power, control, "Is there a God?',  the past, the future, the here and now, the me that’s me and the you that’s you.

That's a brief list of some great issues in life. 

I was wondering: is there a list somewhere or does everyone come up with their own list?

Does it depend on what we’re going through and experiencing at the time?  Is Lent a good time to make a list and look at it and ask how we’re doing?


When I read today’s readings - especially today’s gospel - the issue of power and control hit me.  I said, “Those are two biggies: Power and Control."

What else should I look at? 

I then said to myself, “Stick with power and control. Hey, sermons are supposed to be 10 minutes or under. So how are we doing with those two issues? Let's look at them this Sunday morning - especially as we begin Lent."

That’s the genesis of this sermon and where I’m coming from this morning.

The Gospel is about the Devil tempting Jesus in 3 ways. It’s from Luke 4: 1-13. We’re in the year of Luke.

Luke begins by telling us about Jesus' roots in Nazareth - then being born in Bethlehem - then going back to Nazareth to grow up with Mary and Joseph the Carpenter. 

We hear Luke telling us that Jesus - as he is growing in wisdom and age and grace - has one ear and one foot in Jerusalem and the other foot and ear in Nazareth. That’s Chapter One and Two of Luke.  

Next comes the adult Jesus in Chapter Three with stories of John the Baptist - and Jesus’ baptism.  

Today we come to Chapter 4. Jesus goes into the desert for 40 days and 40 nights.

Luke is going to use the Devil - and his temptations - to try to tell us how Jesus was going to do life. I’ll tell you now: it’s not going to be the way we would want Jesus to be.

Nobody was there with Jesus in the desert, so what we’re getting is from Jesus filtered through Luke and others. Matthew and Mark give other takes on the order of the temptations and the issues involved in the temptations.

In this homily I’m sensing that the devil is using the issue of power and control to discover who this Jesus is and how he works.

Control?  How one uses control? How one use one’s powers to do life?

I’m sure when Pope Francis was elected Pope, different people in different jobs in the Church, wondered, “Who is this Francis and how does he work? How is going to try to run and control things? How will he use his powers? Skills? Tricks? Methods? How will he be different than the last two popes: Benedict and JP II?”  

Perhaps, without knowing it, we all sort of think about the question of power and control when it comes to jobs, church, organizations, bosses, remarriages, what have you.

The kid wonders how this new step-daddy my mom just married will be when it comes to what I can do and can't do in our home?

So how does this Jesus use his powers?

Let's look at the three temptations Christ faced in today's gospel story from Luke.

As I was preparing this homily I realized that I need more time to decipher and make these 3 temptations more real - more clear - to get a better grip on them - as well as how the devil used them to figure out Jesus.

Bottom line: What I got from today's gospel is this: Jesus does different.


The first temptation Jesus faces is: should I turn all these stones I see around here into bread? Hey there are lots of rocks and lots of hungry people!

Jesus doesn't snap a finger or pick up a rock and say, "You're bread!"

Jesus doesn't choose to take the easy way out. It takes work to come up with our daily bread.

One has to farm the earth, remove the rocks, plant the seeds, water the earth, then wait, wait some more, then cut down the wheat, crush the wheat, make the flour, make and bake the bread and then enjoy and break bread and drink good wine sitting down together in communion.

Most of us are not farmers. To give us our daily bread,  most have to go through the long process of going through school, get a job, get a  pay check, shop, cook, fix the table, and then sit down to enjoy eating our daily bread together.


The second temptation is to save people from having to face the temptations of the devil by bowing down and worshiping him.

Nope, daily temptations can sharpen our wit and our skills and our respect for what others are going through.

It takes a lot of living, a lot of mistakes, a log of living in the darkness before it dawns on us that Jesus came to be the light of our world.

It takes a lot of living and dying to self to discover that life is not about wanting to gain power and  glory - recognition and rewards - but to be the servant of us all - without looking for power and glory.


The third temptation is for Jesus to gain instant notoriety by standing up on one of the ledges at the top of the temple in Jerusalem and jump off and let the Lord our God send angels to catch him. That will wow everyone and you'll have the people eating out of your hand.

There is a world of difference too seeing life as show and splash  - "Hey world look at me!" - compared to staying low - and simply seeing life as serving one another.


In this homily I'm trying to say: take a good look at how we are doing life - but surely we can do better.

How do we operate? How do we life?  How do we use our powers to control or deal with control issues in life?

That's the theme and question of this homily.

Everyone of us have some powers. Everyone of us has some things we can control.

However, one of life's biggest learnings is that we are basically powerless and there are a lot of things out of our control.


Question: When does a human being discover she or he is not in control?

Up to that moment, the baby thinks by simply screaming mom and dad will come running. But this time, nobody came running - and the poor baby stopped screaming, finally feel asleep, and woke up okay at 7:38 AM.

Up to that moment, the beautiful teenage girl who ensnared the handsome teenage boy - thought she had everything going perfectly. Then her whole world came tumbling down, when she sees him walking for another girl.

Up to that moment, the healthy, 6 figure salary MBA, thought all was in control, till the doctor said, “It’s cancer.”

Make a list, your list, when you discovered, you were not in control.

I realize it 10 times a day now.  I'm in the rectory - I’m telling my story - they heard it before - someone cuts me off, yawns, looks at their watch - and walks away. And I stand there with my story untold.

I’m not in control. Woo. Sometimes that hurts.

Here's another one. This is a real biggie. 

Somewhere along the line I heard someone say, “God is not in control.”

At first I said, “Wrong. Who the heck is controlling this universe - like clockwork?”

Of course, but then I realized God has given us total control to walk away. Hey Adam and Eve did it. Hey the Devil did it. Hey, turkey you’ve done it a thousand times - and God didn’t throw the clock at you.

The gift of freedom is key issue in all this.

It's central to any discussion of power and control.

Of course, freedom of choice is what makes love and attention and Valentine’s Day so special.

If the "I love you" is not real, if it's not free, then there is no impact.

If the other doesn't yawn, if the other looks us in the eye, if the other speaks from the heart, then love, the intention and attention of love,
can overwhelm us - on Valentine's Day and everyday of our life.

If the other has to give the card, if the other has to say, "Happy Valentine's Day" or "I love you",  it's  a balloon without any air or helium in it. 

It's the difference between have to and want to.

So too,  God must love it, when he meets so many people in daily prayer and attention, because they choose to do so - freely.


The title of my homily was, “Power and Control.”

How well do we do with each?  Lent is a good time to reflect upon key life issues.



For starters it's nice when we are aware of our powers and we use them well. It's nice to have some things in life that we can control.

It's tough when we run into moments that are out of our control and we feel powerless about everything.

It’s also nice to know when it's loving and we give up the power and the control - the steering wheel and the clicker - and give full attention to others.

Let me end by trying to use all the 3 temptations Jesus faced in the desert. 

It's in moments of temptation and struggle, that the rock called our heart, turns to bread. It's then that the power and the glory we could have is handed over to another. It's then that others - being in our presence, feel that can fly. 
February 14, 2016


What’s with the heart? It’s just a pump.

Well, if you have to ask, then you
probably won’t “get” the answer.

When someone is in love, when
someone is emotional, when
someone is running to be with
the one they love, then the pump
jumps, the heart makes sense. 

And when someone shows up
to be with the one they love,
they have to bring a gift - hearts,
candies, flowers, what have you?

Now of course, those who sell cards and
trinkets know all this - so where have you
been that you don’t get Valentine’s Day?