Saturday, March 5, 2016

March 5, 2016


Do mirrors ever talk to each other about what they see and hear?

Do tables, chairs, couches, ever talk about their yesterdays?

Do tissues ever tell what the tears they collected were all about?

Does the person who prepared the meal ever check who took what and who left what on their plate?

Do poets ever hear, “I don’t get it”?

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Friday, March 4, 2016

March 4, 2016


Transubstantiation…. Such a big word
for what was happening to me. My body
and my blood were slowly becoming the
body and blood of Christ. I guess I had
to grow first. I guess I had to be crushed -
kneaded, baked, hang on a vine, be picked,
crushed, till I was  bread - till I was wine -
and then the Yes. I’m doing, I’m living, I’m
giving,  my life in memory of him. I’m letting
people eat up my time and my life and they
are doing the same for me: communion.
Take and eat. Take and drink. Thank you.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016
March 3, 2016


Skin sometimes splits.
Skin sometimes itches.
Skin sometimes hurts.

Skin sometimes needs care.
Skin sometimes needs salve.
Skin sometimes needs band-aids.

Skin always needs attention.
Skin always needs awareness.
Skin is always us - the package - 
       the color, the age and the look!

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016
March 2, 2016


Sometimes we’re sitting there at a concert -
surrounded by people and live music. We
hear an orchestra or a rock or a folk singer
on stage - making music that fills the air - and
it costs lots of money for the concert tickets.

Sometimes we’re sitting there at home or
anywhere - surrounded by sounds coming
from everywhere and it doesn’t cost  us a
penny to listen to a whole orchestra of all
kinds of sounds. We just have to listen.

Sometimes it’s a bowling ball hitting 9 pins -
almost 10 - and we hear the scream from the
sender down the other end of the bowling alley.
Sometimes its birds chirping and singing on
a lawn of April rain - with worms, everywhere.
Or there’s a dog barking and someone
should have told her, “Nobody’s home yet!”

Sometimes it’s an ambulance or fire engines
rushing and running to a call - in rush hour -
“Uh oh!” Or it’s loose manhole cover 300 feet
up the street from our bedroom window - and
we only hear it from 2 or 3 in the morning.

Sometimes we’re visiting a nursing home;
now that’s the place of differing sounds.
A determined old man with a grey aluminum
walker is navigating a tile floor - scrape mixing
with the sound of the shuffle  of slippers -
along with the voiced sounds of aches and
pain and the grunts and groans of aging.

Bees, cicadas, let us know they are making
their rounds - but how come moths and
squirrels don’t make any sounds - so too our
brother or sister. I haven’t heard from either of
them lately. Are they making any sounds?

Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

March 1, 2016


Pretense: so what’s so wrong with pretense?

Sometimes we have to fake it - to make it -
through the moment - through the interview -
to get past the question we were not expecting.

Sometimes pretense, posing, acting, hiding
behind a fa├žade gives us time to interview
ourselves - to get at questions we never asked.

Sometimes we're so hurt or so surprised or we're feeling so stupid or so lonely that pretending gets us at least to the edge of a bridge or door. 

Sometimes pretense gives us time to sort out
our best deep down thinking and praying, so
as to figure out our best self - our best answer.

Pretense: so what’s so wrong with pretense?

 Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Tuesday, March 1, 2016



The title of my homily for this 3rd Tuesday of Lent is, “Mercy and Forgiveness - Some Observations.”

Mercy and Forgiveness:  two words we hear in today’s 2 readings as well as the Psalm Response.

This year we’re hearing and will be hearing these two words - mercy and forgiveness - over and over and over and over again.

What’s your take on these two words: especially mercy?

The title of my homily is, “Mercy and Forgiveness - Some Observations.”


First of all we can say that a constant theme of Francis has been “mercy” - and he wants to stress it especially in this year of mercy we’re in.

He has a book out, The Name of God is Mercy.

The title of his Opening Announcement or Letter  for this year of mercy was: The Face of Mercy.

In that Opening Letter for this year of mercy, Francis begins with this sentence - this statement: “Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy.”

See Christ, see mercy. See mercy, we are seeing God.

Hopefully when we are merciful, people will see God  - in whose image and likeness we were created.

So that’s my first observation:  See Christ - see Mercy - See God - as Pope Francis puts it.

My second observation is this: it’s easier to grasp what the word “forgiveness” is compared to what the word  “mercy” means.

We get today’s parable about forgiving. A guy begs forgiveness for a debt - is forgiven - and the then goes out and won’t forgive his neighbor who owes him far less. [Cf. Matthew 18: 21-35.]

I get what the word and concept of forgiveness means. We know about forgiving ourselves, forgiving others. This doesn’t mean forgiveness is easy. It’s difficult. But I think we get the meaning of forgiveness far quicker and clearer than what mercy means.

Mercy is tricky. In a way, for starters, we know or think we know, what mercy is. We pray for it all the time: Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.

I hear mercy as a begging for forgiveness. We’re screaming, “Take pity on me. Give me a break. I made a mistake, but give me a second chance - another chance, another try at it.”

Then comes the mystery, the wonderment, about mercy. We have our glimpses - but there is the hope that Francis is right - that all those who talk about God being a God of mercy - that they are right.

This is our God. We hope God is the Part One King in today’s gospel who forgives the guy who owes him. We hope God is not like the Part Two King in today’s gospel who doesn’t forgive the debtor when he finds out that he wouldn’t forgive a fellow servant. Doesn’t God forgive 7 times - 70 times?

And that’s just a slice of our deep wonderings about just what is our God like.


In his book, The Name of God is Mercy, Francis gives 5 messages, 5 observations about mercy. I add them to my homily in case I’ve confused you with my observations.

First of all, Francis says mercy is the essence of God. It’s God’s ID card.

Secondly, take some time and come up with some names of people who showed you what mercy is. Francis mentions several priests he knew. Lent is a good time to do homework on questions like that. So name some names of family members, friends, co-workers, neighbors, parishioners, whom you see as merciful.

Thirdly, see listening as a key part of mercy. Listen but don’t judge - like in confession - like in being with each other.

Fourthly, avoid self-righteousness. In fact, Francis secretly hopes that those who are rigid, self-righteous, always complaining about the faults and behaviors of others, that they slip - and maybe this will help them slide into more understanding.

Fifth and lastly, put compassion into action. Show us your mercy.

Monday, February 29, 2016



The title of my homily for this 3 Monday of Lent is, “Skin: Some Reflections.”

Since both readings for today talk about Naaman - a man who had skin problems - I decided to do a little reflecting on skin.

Give me some skin. Give me something on skin.



It’s us. It’s our color. It contains stories. It contains time. It’s our face to the world.

We rub our skin. We itch our skin. We pick our skin. We wonder about our skin. We worry about our skin. We check out our skin in the mirror.

It gets cut. It gets burned. It gets scared. It gets bruised.

We don’t think about skin as an organ of the body, but it’s listed as just that - and the largest organ in our body - roughly 20 square feet.

It gives doctors, skin doctors, dermatologists, plastic surgeons, a job to do.

It used to be  described as the easiest of the doctor jobs: if it’s dry make it moist; if it’s moist make it dry.

Not true because we can have problems with rashes, eczema, psoriasis, acne, dandruff,  cellulitis, keratosis, shingles, warts, melanoma, scabs and hives, just to name  a few possible problems and worries.

What’s your take on your skin?  Mirrors can help us stare time in the face - seeing our wrinkles and our aging.

Acceptance is the name of the game.  If someone came up with a great skin cream, I’m sure they would not call it,  “Acceptance”. Instead it would be called, “Beauty Preserver” or “Game Changer.”


Naaman the army commander of the king of Aram had leprosy. I’ve often heard that leprosy in his day - was not necessarily Hansen’s Disease, but any kind of severe skin problem or issue.

The message of this story from the 2nd book of Kings 5: 1-15ab, is that the God of Israel is the true God. He can heal skin problems and soul problems.

Naaman appears as a brusque type of character - who thinks it is bizarre to have to go to the king of Israel for a healing.  He goes - but he thinks he can buy his healing with all kinds of gold coins and classy clothes. He goes to the king of Israel for the healing. The king basically says, “You’ve come to the wrong person. Who do you think I am?”  He’s angry with the whole idea, the gifts as well as a letter from Naaman’s king?

In the meanwhile Elisha the prophet hears about the story and sends a message that all Naaman has to do is wash himself 7 times in the Jordan and he’ll be healed.

Elisha is giving him a free, “Get out of leprosy pass.”

Naaman balks at that and says, “Our rivers are better than the dinky Jordan River.”

His servants tell him, “Follow the prophet’s advice.”

He relents - goes to the Jordan - does what he is told and is healed.


The people in today’s gospel - Luke 4:24-30 - are sort of the same way. They don’t like the way God works or Jesus’ description of how God the Father works. Once more we hear the story of Naaman - along with a similar story about Elijah the Prophet and a poor widow.

God is a God of surprises.

For some people it’s their way or the highway.  And their skin tells you in the face what they are feeling. Red roaring anger - which along with tightened skin in our fists shows up when we don’t get our way.


The title of my homily is, “Skin.”

This Lent touch your hands. Rub your eyes, ears and face. Smooth your skin and thank God for the gift of life.

Jesus was comfortable with skin. He touched ears - even putting his finger in them. Eyes as well. He took some of his spit and touched someone he wanted to heal in his mouth and tongue. He reached out to those with leprosy. He let people reach out to touch him. He let a woman wash his feet with oil and dry his feet with her hair. He washed feet. He touched the dead.

Let Jesus do the same for you. Amen.

February 29, 2016


There are two kinds of people:
those who feel they have to 
have an edge and those who 
laugh because they are neither 
into the race nor the competition.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Sunday, February 28, 2016



The title of my homily is, “Sitting Under the Apple Tree.”

As I read today’s readings - I noticed in the first reading - the story of Moses and the Burning Bush. It was a key turning point of Moses’ life.

We all have them. Lent is a good time to name them.

Moses had been running, running away. He had killed someone. He was in hiding. Here on a mountain,  he has a God experience. He was called from a life of moving away from -  to a life of moving towards.

Then I read today’s gospel from Luke and I noticed the story of the fig tree - and how that story could be a significant turning point in one’s life.

It struck me how significant trees can be in one’s life.  I remembered the old song, “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree  With Anyone Else than Me.”

“Oh no!”

I looked it up on Goggle and found out that the song goes back to 1939 and then 1941 and into 1942 - 1943 - at the beginning of World War II. It’s a song about a young soldier going off to war and has to leave the girl he loved. The message to each other is, “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree with Anyone Else than Me.”  Glenn Miller and the Andrews Sisters played it.  It remained Number One on Your Hit Parade from October 1942 till January 1943. That was the longest period for a war song to be Number One.


The Bible features lots of stories about trees. Genesis tells us about the tree of life in the middle of the Garden of Paradise - as well as the tree of good and evil.

Adam and Eve have it all. They are in paradise. However, there’s a catch. They can’t eat from the fruit of a certain tree - the tree of good and evil.

There’s always a catch.

There’s always the possibility of messing up a good thing - messing up a good life.

How many lives - how many marriages - have we heard fell apart because someone began to eat forbidden fruit?

And they bit into evil and their eyes were opened and they hid from God in the shadows and the bushes in the Garden of Paradise.

Here’s Moses in today’s first reading experiencing God in the burning bush. He asks God, “What is your name?”  That’s another great question for Lent - asking God his name - asking God, “Who are You?” And God gives his name and who He is, “I Am Who Am”. That’s Yahweh in Hebrew.

The Psalms begin with Psalm One saying we have a life choice of being a tree planted near running water giving fruit every season or we can be a dead leaf scattered in the wind. Our choice. Our move. We know the difference between an apple tree and a dead leaf or a dead apple blossom.

Jesus says we can be a good tree or a bad tree. And here in today’s gospel he says we can be a fig tree that produces figs or we can be a dead tree.

In Matthew the fig tree doesn’t get a second chance. In Luke - true to character - we are told that the fig tree has a second chance. This is the year of Luke. Luke is the gospel of mercy and forgiveness. We’ll hear his stories this year - especially Luke 15 with its three get parables of mercy and forgiveness - the stories of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Lost Son. These stories are key to this year of mercy that Pope Francis is stressing and pushing.

Judas hung himself from a tree.  He gave up. Oh no.

Jesus was killed on the tree of the cross. He gave us himself. Oh yes!

Trees. It’s Lent. It’s cold here in Maryland and I don’t see us sitting under a tree these cold days. But I can see us sitting here in church on the wood of trees - benches - sitting under the tree of the cross.

I’ve gone into many churches in my life - outside of Mass times - and I’ve seen many people sitting there quietly - in late morning - or afternoon - sitting quietly on wood under the tree of the cross.

Here in St. John Neumann we have this gigantic tree of the cross - and right underneath it,   is the Eucharist - and we can hear Jesus say to us - the words of life, “Take and eat! Take and drink.”

Bread and wine - like trees - planted in the earth - growing - becoming the food of life for us.

And many people find church as holy ground - like Moses discovered the ground to be holy where he experienced God in a new way - when God called him to bear fruit in a new way - and God said out of the burning bush, “I Am Who Am.”

Lent is a good time to drop into church and sit quietly - with our God.

This year is a good year to come through the doors of this church or St. Mary’s  - designated as one of holy churches for this year of mercy. Our doors are open and it’s good to think of the doors of our lives. Have we shut any doors on others? Have we had a door slammed in our face? Do we feel the church has shut its doors on us?

Lent is a time to take a seat and eat the great messages of God to us.

Lent is a good time to have a Moses moment.

Oh yes.


When I lived in Tobyhanna, Pennsylvania, from 1976 - 1984 I was driving up Route 611 one late afternoon and I was driving into the sun and it was coming through a red beautiful Japanese maple tree and I had a God experience. I was seeing the burning bush - while driving.

I say this to get you thinking about God experience moments in your life and have any of them been connected to trees?

Around 1975 I was attending a weekend conference by Father Tom Berry a Passionist priest - who was world famous to some as an earthologist - anthropologist - poet - theologian etc. etc. etc. It was being held at the Cardinal Spellman Retreat House on the Hudson River.  He invited people to attend a conference where he wanted to give a New Creation Account - pulling together everything he and we knew up to that moment in 1975.

The priest - a friend of mine - that I went with - told me that I would understand only about 1% of what Tom would be saying. He was correct - but what I got that weekend was 100 doors to open - like what were the Native Americans about - what science,  so too Confucius, so too Buddha, so too Mao of the Chinese revolution and on and on and on.

However, that Friday evening as Tom Berry began he told us as he pointed to the glass doors along the side of the big room we were in - that at the bottom of the lawn just out there - that leads to the Hudson River - is this gigantic 450 years old oak tree. Tom Berry said, “I think we’d get more out of this weekend if we all simply sat down under that old tree and watched the Hudson River go by this weekend.”

In time I understood that message 100 per cent. But it took time. Oh yes.

People get 100 times more of God and Holy Ground stuff and life when they sit in sacred places  much more  than from sermons and talks.

Has that been your experience? Like moments sitting in airports or malls watching the world going by. Like sitting in a quiet room in a rocking chair holding a baby while babysitting for our kids. Like sitting in a window seat on a bus or a plane and looking out the window at the world we live in.

Like the moment Jesus said to Nathaniel, “I know you. I saw you sitting under a fig tree the other day.” Like the moment Sir Isaac Newton sat under an apple tree and an apple fell to the ground and he realized the law of gravity.  Like the moment Buddha after trying both extremes of life - pleasure and complete fasting - discovered, was enlightened, realized under the Bo Tree - that the answer to the mystery of life was in the middle.

Like when I think about all this I remember in the 1940’s - as a family going to Bliss Park in Bay Ridge,  Brooklyn and climbing this neat hill and sitting under this great big gray bark tree - my dad and mom setting up a blanket there - with food for a picnic - and we four of us kids would roll down the hill or run down the hill - the same hill we snow sled down in winter and then have a family picnic in summer there. Under that tree we were learning: This is the meaning of life. There is holy ground. There is God. There is the gift of life together under  a great tree of life.


The title of my homily is, “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree with Anyone Else than Me.”

“Oh no!”

It’s Lent. Take the time to sit with the most significant person - persons in your life and talk and listen to each other about your life together. Oh yes.

Take the time to sit together with God - and thank God for the gift of life - and talk about the fruit of your womb - the fruits of your work - the fruits of your life.  Oh yes.

And if you feel like a fig tree than hasn’t been producing, here in Luke, hear Luke tell you that Jesus says, “Start cultivating the ground around your life - get fertilized, so that you’ll start bearing fruit again. Tell God you don’t want to be cut down. Oh no!
February 28, 2016


Do couples hold hands walking towards
a church more than other times in their life -
especially when they are going to the
funeral of a friend their own age?

Do Italians really get angry when someone
cuts their spaghetti with a knife before eating?

Do marriages get shaky at 7 year markers or are
the ingredients of an earthquake always present?

Do fat people talk diet to themselves 100 times
a day and 100 times more that the diets their
family and friends recommend to them?

Are people who say they are “spiritual and not
religious” telling others, “Get off my back!”

Is death a much tougher question mark for men
than for women - especially those who had babies?

Does our unconscious talk to the unconscious
of the other person - and we both know without
knowing - what’s going on between us?

Would the way we live our life make a difference if we knew there was nothing 
after this?

Is it true that nobody really wants to be 
someone else - but everyone knows people
they would not want to be?

When people ask a question, is there actually
another question underneath that question?


© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016