Saturday, March 12, 2016

March 12, 2016


A smile disarms a gathering of fists and
stuck solid stone minds that are already
made up before the meeting begins.
Relax. Zip lips. Unzip ears. Smile.
You’re being filmed by the camera eyes
of everyone else in the room. So, "Smile!"

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Friday, March 11, 2016

March 11, 2016


Too many sermons have holes in them
like Father McKenzie's socks - as he
darns together words that he hopes -
will take away the loneliness in the
benches of  his  church - scattered 
with people in corners and behind 
poles - all the lonely people who 
long for communion - who long for
union - who long for others - who
long for Christ - the Lonely One -
who takes away the sins of our world.
Father McKenzie please, please, meet 
Eleanor Rigby before she dies. 

                                   © Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

March 10, 2016


Rejected too many times, he crawled
into dark alleys - settling amongst the
plastic garbage bags… becoming
the sole possessor of himself -
becoming odder - someone who
used to be someone’s husband,
son, brother, father, all of the above -
and all of us screaming out on this cold
night. "Where are you? Call. Please call!"

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

March 9, 2016


What do I do when 
I feel like 
I’m not enough?

Well, that feels 
better than feeling 
like I’m nothing.

And both feel 
better than thinking 
I’m something else.

Especially when 

I don't know when 
I don't know enough.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Tuesday, March 8, 2016


Once upon a time, down south, deep down south,  a church building committee met to start planning for a new church building. For Sunday morning Mass, they were using a local restaurant for 9 years.

In the meanwhile they saved up a good bit of money for their future church.

Three big senior citizen villages took root in the area - with a good bit of Catholics in the mix. In the meanwhile that Sunday morning restaurant Mass was a bit crowded - even with a second Mass. It used to be just 10 AM. With this new schedule, 8 and 11:30 A.M., there was time for breakfast right there after each Mass. It was a win-win for the parish as well as for the restaurant.

Still a church of their own was the hope and the dream and the plan.

That night, the church building committee met in one of the homes of a parishioner. Their meeting began with a home mass. Surprise, surprise, it was on the 4th Tuesday of Lent and the first reading talked about Ezekiel’s  vision of the temple and lots of water [Cf. Ezekiel 49: 1-9, 12] . The gospel - from the 5th chapter of John - talked about the healing water at the healing pool at Bethesda. This man who was a crippled for 38 years was healed by Jesus. [Cf. John 5:1-16]

“Why not build a church with running water inside?” was one of the first suggestions - with a laugh - as the meeting began.

“Yes,” said someone else. “I’ve always loved fountains in Malls - with benches off to the side. I’ve always wondered, “Why not for our church?”

Everyone became energized - saying, “Why not? Why not?”

The realists in the group - they weren’t all dreamers - said, “I don’t know. I think running water and ongoing splash  would become a distraction during Mass.”

“Besides that,” said someone, “we have a lot of senior citizens in these 3 new developments in our area. Hearing that water during Mass, the ongoing flowing, even with hearing problems, obviously they would be saying, ‘Where’s the bathroom?’”

The pastor was a listener. He let people dream.  Why not let folks put their minds and hearts into this project? They are paying for it. It’s their money. It’s their church. They will be here a long time after I’m gone.”

One dreamer said, “Let’s have a square church - with parking lots on all 4 sides - North, East, South and West - and 4 gates leading up to 4 entrances - with beautiful  streams of water from the church building. We have this beautiful river right there on the side of the church - so we won’t need extra water - and we would be cleaning and clearing it up.”

Then this dreamer added, “As we heard in the today’s first reading from Ezekiel, we can also have beautiful fruit trees along the paths leading to and from the church - as Ezekiel has for the temple. And at the right season, parishioners can pick up fresh fruit. Neat.”

Next, looking at the gospel the pastor said, “I’ve always wanted to  be in a church with total immersion - for baptism. This is our chance. We can have a beautiful baptism pool in the middle or the church - with flowing water.”

Someone added, “Why not let the children and the handicapped have access to some nice small pools just outside of church. Most of the year we have warm weather.”

And that’s what they did. They built a beautiful church - inside and out - with lots and lots of running clear water - fountains and pools.

In time people came from all over to see and to pray at  this church. In time they built a replica of the baths of Lourdes, France, and they had healing services all through the year. Being down there, in the deep, deep south, they had lots of people who had arthritis and were in wheel chairs - and many said they felt much better after a Holy Bath. And at every healing service at the Lourdes Baths they would read the 5th chapter of John - as well as do a renewal of Baptism vows.

And yes they built big bathrooms - near all 4th entrances to the church and no, there didn’t seem to have a more than normal rush for the rest rooms.

March 8, 2016


Teenage girls scream at the rock star - 
with the name  - with the albums - with 
the posters - with the glistening guitar -
but then the tune changes and the rock
star at some point wants to hide under
a rock and just be at home - alone -
without a name - incognito - hiding
in a t-shirt inside his house - and hiding
behind sunglasses on the street - while
the anonymous loner on the street longs
for someone - just one person to know
him or her and to say, “Hello. Hi. Are you
okay today? What's going on with you?
Want to take a walk? What to chat?

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Monday, March 7, 2016

March 7, 2016


When did we say, “Please!” for 
the first time? Did we hear our
parents or older kids begging 
another for something: “Please!”

Did it work? Did another grant our
wish? Is it one of the first great
lessons in life - to beg another
for a favor - and they do it?

Is all this the foundation of prayer
and relationships? What happens
to us when nobody listens and we
simply can’t get our way? Uh oh!

Does that lead us to “Pretty please”
or plea bargaining - or does it stop us
from learning life’s second lesson:
learning to say “Thank you”?

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016



The title of my homily for this 4th Monday in Lent is, “What’s New?”

What's new?

Today’s first reading from Isaiah 65 begins by the Lord saying, “I am about to create new heavens and a new earth.”  Then he adds that, “The tings of the past shall not be remembered or come to mind.”

Newness…. What’s new?  To think on that theme today.  There is something in us that calls for a new me - a better me - a more creative me - a holier me - a nicer me. Hopefully, we sense this in Lent. Easter me, O Lord.

I was thinking yesterday - Sunday - when doing my homily - that I was skipping any mention of  the first and second reading. I was only concentrating on the gospel, the story of the Prodigal Son. I felt guilty. The readers practice those first two readings and we preachers often skip them or fly by them.

Yesterday’s second reading from 2 Corinthians began, “Whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.”

Surprise: today’s first reading has almost the same message here in Isaiah 65.


The title of my homily is, “What’s New?”

I’m standing there last night in a hospital room at Anne Arundel Medical Center around 11 PM talking with someone who is about to die. Talking? Yes? Her mind was still very much present. She’s around my age and I could see the wrinkles and the damage from cancer.

Sometimes in such situations I don’t want to talk death and resurrection - especially with the family around the bed - because I don’t know where they are - with the whole death and dying process. I don’t know where the person is - with death and dying. I assume the nurses know something - because they called.

So last night I took the chance and said, “Remember me when you see God.” I said, “Soon you’ll be brand new in the kingdom of heaven.”

I don’t know what my thoughts will be when I’m in the same situation. I hope I’ll see this world as a womb - a second womb - and once more I’ll be a brand new baby - this time about to being born into eternity - into the everlasting kingdom.

Death and resurrection - the old and the new - we’re very familiar with these two realities. We’ve experienced both in our times.

New cars…. new homes …. new jobs …. new people in our lives …. new experiences we have to face.

We like the smell of the new. It could be a new car - home - restaurant - marriage - Spring - the first day in school, high school, college, joining the army, navy…. or it could be when that last kid leaves and we’re in an empty nest.



Isaiah says the Lord does all this.

Today’s Psalm 30 says that the Lord does all this. The Lord rescues us. There will be no more mourning - no more night - but dawn and rejoicing.

Today’s gospel from John 4 tells us that Jesus changes the water into the new wine. Today’s gospel tells us that Jesus is the healer - the one who makes all things new. It is by faith that the Royal Official’s Son is healed.


There is something in us that likes the new  - whether it’s a new born baby in front of us in church or at the checkout line at Giant or Graul’s.

There is something in us that likes Good News - someone got a new job or got engaged - or a daughter or granddaughter or son won an award.

There is something we come to church for - the gospel - which means Good news.

We like good news.

We need good news.

We need the Gospel - which means Good News.

May we all be to and for each other Gospel - Good News. Amen.   


Sunday, March 6, 2016

Rembrandt: Return 
of the Prodigal Son


The title of my homily for this Fourth Sunday of Lent, [C] is, “Short Stories.”

When was the last time you read a good short story?

Do you read short stories?

I like to have a paperback copy of short stories by my bed - to read at night - before going to sleep.   Right now I have one called, “The Hill Bachelors.” That’s  the title of the last short story in a book of short stories by the Irish writer William Trever. I’ve  gone through the short stories of John Cheever, Flannery O’Connor, Raymond Carver, George Saunders,  Colm Toiban and others. I haven’t gotten to Alice Munro, the Canadian short story writer yet - but plan to….

How about you? Have you read any good short stories lately?


I bring this up because today’s gospel presents one of the greatest short stories ever told: the parable of the Prodigal Son.  In fact, in the 15th chapter of Luke we have three short stories by Jesus.

Moreover we have the reason why Jesus told these 3 stories - all of which have the same plot - but with various nuances. The Pharisees - the religious righteous ones - and the scribes, the educated ones who could read and write - were complaining about Jesus hanging around with tax collectors and sinners. Terrible! Tch, tch, tch....  Terrible.... That's us.

So Jesus told them three stories which appear here in Chapter 15 of Luke: the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Lost Son.

Today we heard the 3rd story - the longest of the 3 short stories here in the middle of the gospel of Luke.


Philip Yancey retells this Prodigal Son story in one of his books - but it’s about a lost daughter. I’ve read it a bunch of times - but have listened to it on CD a dozen times. I cry every time - probably because we have a lost niece for over 30 years now - and I’ve have been hoping forever that she come back to the family.

Philip Yancey’s story is entitled, “The Lovesick Father.”  It’s in his book, What’s So Amazing About Grace?

The story begins like this, “A young girl grows up on a cherry orchard just above Traverse City, Michigan. Her parents, a bit old-fashioned, tend to overreact to her nose ring, the music she listens to, and the length of her skirts. They ground her a few times, and she seethes inside. ‘I hate you!’ she screams at her father when he knocks on the door of her room after an argument and that night she acts on a plan she has mentally rehearsed scores of time. She runs away.”

You know the story…. You just heard it.

Philip Yancey’s version doesn’t have an older brother or sister - who won’t forgive - but he ends up zeroing in on the powerful story of a forgiving and loving father - filled with unconditional love.


All of you would be writers, think short story writing - besides short story reading.

If you want to write short stories, short story writers tell you that you need to have a conflict - a tension - some opposition. A good short story gets the reader to say, “Oh yeah, that’s me. That’s my story.”

So it has to ring true.  It’s not a sermon. It’s not preachy. It has to have a plausible plot. Characters have to be quite different from each other. It’s not a novel - so it can’t have too many plots. In fact one seems best. Novels are a different kettle of fish. So write about opposite type people dealing with issues and ideas or outlooks that seem them collide.

I like to make a whole sermon a story at times. I’ve done that probably 50 times. And I’ve written another 100 or more short stories in my life - some of which are published.

If you want to write - and if you don’t have enough time - write short stories.


A creative - tricky - imaginative - idea is to write a 6 word short story.

I’m sure you heard that Ernest Hemingway is famous for his bet that he could write a 6 word short story. Supposedly  he won the bet. Others say this story Hemingway isn’t true and in fact there were earlier similar stories.  His short story was,  "For sale: baby shoes, never worn."

If you do crossword puzzles or Sudokus, why not try your hand at 6 word short stories?  Here’s a bunch that I like. Some seem closer to a story than others. I picked ones that are stoppers - most of which say a lot more than any sermon I preached. They teach me that short is better - story is better.

Dinner for two, widower and memories.

Borders meant nothing. The birds migrated.

Wasted day. Wasted life. Dessert, please. - Steven Meretzky

Google was invented. He stopped thinking.

They quarreled, the child started crying!

Dear God, please take me instead.

“I’m significant” screamed the dust speck.

She read her obituary. And smiled.

No one is listening. Except Siri.

“Alcohol brought us together, and apart.”

...and then they never talked thereafter...


The title of my homily is, “Short Stories.”

I pushed reading and writing them.

I said that Jesus in today’s gospel told the story of a father having two sons - two very different sons - and how each of us can play any of these 3 characters or roles in our life. We can be the one who messes up. We can be like the father -  the one who forgives and knows what God the Father is like. And sometimes we can be the righteous one. We just don’t like the message of Jesus when it comes to forgiving 70 times 7 times. We don’t like the pope and his message of mercy - forgiveness - compassion - understanding and acceptance of those who really mess up their lives.

A parable is from the Greek word PARABOLA - remember them in math. They are like a boomerang - tossed out and they hit us sideways.

And today’s gospel, can we put it in 6 words?
·        Father, two sons, avoiding being home.
·       “Dad, maybe he should have left?”
·       Second son: “What did I do wrong?”

Ooops that last one is 7 words. Please forgive me.

March 6, 2016
Murillo, Return of  the
Prodigal Son, 1667-1670


It’s not good to be alone.
It’s good to have sisters and brothers.
It's good to have others we have to be aware of.

How many people have said,
“It’s nice to have more than one bathroom,
but looking back I think we learned a lot
more from having only one bathroom
when we were growing up. It made us
think of others on a regular basis.”

How many people have also said,
“Comparisons are odious - unhealthy.”
Well maybe - but at times in family -
being the oldest or the youngest or
being in the middle has lots of
possibilities for struggle and learning.

Now looking at the story of the Prodigal
Son and the Older Brother - did the
Father suffer more worrying about the
older or the younger brother?

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016