Saturday, March 19, 2016


Sometimes we’re talking, just talking
to someone - and to be honest -
without much thought, it’s chitchat.
It’s not even a trivial pursuit.

We’re at a coffee break or outside church
or at a wedding - just two people at a
round table. The others are on the dance
floor - or the bathroom - or wherever folks
disappear to at a wedding and we’re alone -
but this time with a person we never really
talked to ever, ever, ever  before.

Then - for some rare reason - the
conversation becomes different - 
very, very different. This other person
is actually talking to us - and we find
ourselves looking them right in the eye. [1]

We haven’t done that in years - maybe
never, never, ever, ever….

They are talking serious - mentioning
stuff from their inside - and we let out
a little bit of ourselves - from the me
inside the me of me. [2]

Driving along - alone - a month or two
later - we find ourselves thinking about
that moment. We realize we can actually
talk to another from our inside.

We get what Jesus meant about
the inner room - and talking from
the heart - from the deep within -
where our deepest intentions are. [3]

We now know the difference between
everyday chatter and real talk - something
we have started to do a bit more now.

We hear singers different. We sense  
that some can sing a song 100 times
and each time it’s from within - and not
just lip and word memory while looking
at the clock in the back of the hall. “Yeah!” [4]

In church we begin to know the difference
between sermons that are authentic -
heart to heart - not just tape recordings
from the pulpit - from another’s past.


We know there is a world of difference
between words - and  words made flesh -
words coming out of a life lived - out of
love: passion, death and resurrection.

                                                                   © Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

[1] Matthew 6:22;7:22-23
[2] Matthew 6: 5-6
[3] Matthew 15:18-20
[4] Thanks for Harry Chapin for the thoughts for this reflection - found in his song, “You Are the Only Song”  - as well as a quote from Charles Péguy, “A word is not the same with one writer as it is with another. One tears it from his guts. The other pulls it out of his overcoat pocket.”



The title of my homily is,  “Did You Ever Want to Kill Someone?”

Well,  I don’t mean “kill” or “murder” - but I do mean having mean feelings that I want so and so to disappear - because I’m filled with  anger - and oops - sometimes ferocious anger - anger that makes me tighten my fists and shake a bit.

It could be a parent or a sibling - a coach or a teacher - or someone who breaks our trust or our jaw - dumps or cheats on us - hurts us big time.

I feel hesitation bringing up this topic - bringing this feeling up - especially in a high school gathering for a Mass. And we’ve seen in the news in our life time school shootings.   Ugh. Ugh. Ugh.

And yes - schools sometimes have lock downs - about all this.

So don’t do this - because this sermon could be blamed - for such a horrific act to happen.

It scares me - preaching on this - on a nice almost Spring day in March.

Yet I’m aware that it’s not the day - it’s the occasion - when this question of killing others - shows up.

We see killings on the evening news - in our video games - our movies - that sometimes have massive violence scenes. We’ve read in English classes some of the tragedies of Shakespeare - especially Macbeth, Hamlet and King Lear.


In my defense for bringing up this topic - this question comes up loud and clear in today’s readings.

The first reading from Jeremiah 20: 10-13 begins with Jeremiah saying, “I hear the whispers of all many - yelling out, “Terror!” I hear people complaining about me - denouncing me - wanting to take vengeance on me.”

Jeremiah spoke out announcing to the people of Jerusalem that God is not happy with their behavior - and we know what happens to those who correct us - and challenge us - we want to shut them up - even kill them.

Yet they keep singing and screaming that the times they are a - changing - so read the signs of the times and change - but who listens.

No wonder prophets begin, "Hear!"

They know people don't want to hear prophecies - messages they don't want to hear. 

Jeremiah is throw down a cistern - into mud. He doesn’t drown - and is eventually rescued - but sometimes people want to kill other people to shut them up.

And in today’s gospel from John10: 31-42 the crowds want to kill Jesus. They pick up rocks to thrown at him.

He challenges them - saying, “You  have seem me do many good works. I have shown you my Father.”

They scream at him the reason they want to stone him to death. It’s for blasphemy - saying he was God.


We’re about to enter into Holy Week - the last week of Lent.

We’re going to go through once more - year after year - the death of Jesus Christ on the Cross.

He was killed.

If you come to church next week - you too will scream - when we read the Passion and Death Account of Jesus - what the crowds screamed at Jesus, “Crucify him. Crucify him.”

“Kill him!”

And they did.

So that’s a reason why I entitled this homily, “Did you ever want to kill someone?”

Two weeks ago in a homily I mentioned a poem entitled, “Indifference” from a British writer - G. A. Studdart Kennedy.

It pictures Jesus coming back again - this time to the city of Birmingham in England - and Jesus is standing there in the streets of that big city - but this time everyone is ignoring him as he stands there in the rain.

And he longs for Jerusalem - where there are people screaming - but this time people are killing him by their silence - by ignoring him.

What hit me about that poem is that today we kill God - the God within us - the God in our streets - and in our life - in our school - and in our homes and our family not by wooden crosses - but often by silence.

We get this.

We’ve all been killed by silence - by neglect - by people dissing us in 1,001 subtle and different ways.

I’ve been up here in the pulpit many times and someone aborts me by the watch look. They hold up their wrist in the middle of my sermon and look at the time - and then follow with a stretch and a yawn.

I’m against abortion - but abortion of others - crucifixion of others in 1,001 different ways. There’s a guy who stands in the back - against the wall there - just inside the back entrance - and he reads the bulletin - all through my sermon. I pause - a few times more - to see if he’ll look up - to see what happened. No luck.

I say this - because I notice this. I feel this. I do this

It kills us all ever so slightly.

We do this to parents, brothers and sisters, teachers, bathroom cleaners, bus drivers, waiters and waitresses - all the time. We abort them. We kill them. We ignore them. We don’t notice them.


Many of us kill God - crucify God - abort God - ignore God - and leave God standing there in the rain - all alone.

We don’t scream in the night, “God you’re dead. Goodbye!”

We don’t rip all those pages in the Bible that mention God. We just put the book sideways on the bottom shelf of our bookshelf or use the Bible as a door stop - of the door that shuts out God.


And we do the same with others.

Every high school retreat I’ve ever been on, kids see kids they never saw before.

Small groups can be small surprises - or sometimes big surprises.

In the past 5 years - or is it longer - some people spend the meal  with people who are not at table with them - but people they are texting or talking with on a iPhone or what have you.

Then there are small wars. People don’t pick up stones to kill others - but they do pick up words to throw at each other.

Then there are the big wars. The history of the world - the history of this century so far and the last century - where I grew up in - and some of you have both feet in for starters - is wars and rumors of war - local and evening news world.

I heard Spike Lee say last night on the radio that 99 people die every day in the United States because of gun violence.


Spike Lee said that of those 99 people who are killed by guns,  33 of them are by suicide.

The title of my homily is, “Did You Ever Want to Kill Someone.”

Sometimes that someone is ourselves. We want to disappear - abort ourselves - blot out ourselves.

We’re sick and tired of being bullied or hurt.

How many young people have killed themselves to get even with someone who hurt them or dumped them or dropped them. This will get them.


In this homily I want to address this issue that will preoccupy us next week - holy week.

The stations of the Cross in every Catholic Church give us pictures way before TV or misjudgments, condemnations, violence, till we finally reach the 12th station over there - when Jesus dies on the cross.

People hated him - spit at him - screamed at him - along the way of the cross.

He did standing up for those who were scapegoated - because people refused to talk to themselves and others and our God about the ferocious anger that can dominate us at times.

We get crossed - double crossed - cut - hurt - crucified silently and violently every day.

Christ on the cross can help us deal with all this pain - today - next week and for the rest of our lives.

Lent - coming to church - is a time to face all these inner voices and screams.

And please notice that Holy Week doesn’t end on Good Friday - if it did - it would be called, “Bad Friday.”

Nope it ends and a new beginning happens on Easter Sunday - when Christ rose from the dead - and calls all those who have died to resurrection and new life.

That means now for all - including those amongst us who have died and been in the tomb for years now. 

Friday, March 18, 2016

March 18, 2016


Not the way we expected.

Yet, sometimes it does.

And sometimes that is unexpected.

Autumn leaves scream out, "It’s autumn."

Spring flowers burst! But then it snows.

The phone rings. Total surprise call....

We change plans. We have a Saturday to remember.

It’s a girl. We were expecting a boy!

The kid can sing. Where did that come from?

So and so marries so and so. Surprise!

Time ticks. Lots of the normal stuff happens....

Then we hear so and so is cheating on so and so.

Bummer - and the affair changes everything.


The wedding ring comes off....

The wedding album is thrown out....

Sometimes life is a bummer.

Sometimes tires go flat.

Sometimes someone gets God out of nowhere.

Good thing - because then the next arrives.


Life happens - and "Uh oh’s!" are uttered.

"Now what?" - is the next mutter.

There will be a next.

That we know.

That's how life happens.

It does.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016
March 17, 2016


May you wake up today
with a smile on your face the
moment you look in the mirror.

And if you should slip or trip 
sometime today, may nobody call 
you an amadán, a gom or an eejit.[1]

And may God whisper to you that
bagpipes are nice, but to be hearing them 
all day long - well that's another story.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016


[1] Cute  Irish slang words for "idiot"  "clumsy" and "dummy".

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

March 16, 2016


Don’t neglect shadows. They
disappear into the deep dark night
and at high noon. But - BUT - at  all
other times - if we stop to look
around and look within - sometimes
we can see our shadows climbing up
our back stairs or sliding along the
sidewalk and against our back wall.
Sometimes they make a slight coughing “Ahem!” sound - reminding us they are our past. We have our sins and our 
secrets - and they have their bad breath aftertaste. Oooh! Calm down, this is the year of mercy and forgiveness and doors that open wide with God ready to give
us a big welcome home hug - along
with a great big banquet. Enjoy. [1]

[1] Luke 15:20
© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Tuesday, March 15, 2016



The title of my homily is, “Preach the Gospel  Brand New!”

That’s something that St. Clement Hofbauer - whose feast we celebrate today - said. Preach - Make - the gospel as new.


The Redemptorists had two great founders - one on each side of the Alps.

For the sake of transparency we are Redemptorists here at St. Mary’s

The two men never met  - but they could have.  Alphonsus’ dates are 1696-1787 and Clement’s dates are 1751 - 1820.  Clement became a Redemptorist in Rome in 1784. At the time Alphonsus was an old man in a wheelchair down in Pagani in the Kingdom of Naples.

Clement then went over the Alps - to Warsaw and then Vienna - from which we Redemptorists here in Annapolis came from.


The title of my homily is, “Preach the Gospel Brand New.”

Both men tried to make the gospel visible…. Brand new - freshly baked bread.

I can say that because that’s how they saw Christ. That’s how they saw God - that God became visible in Jesus Christ - beginning as a baby - then a teenager - then a young man - who walked our streets and talked our words - and tried to make them flesh.

Both Alphonsus and Clement preached in images and stories and words that people got.

Both realized that the people of Europe were hungry for God.

What greater reality for hunger is bread - the desire for fresh bread….

Give us this day our daily bread.

It’s funny Alphonsus came from the mid upper class and Clement came from the lower classes. Upper crust and bottom crust.

Alphonsus ended up working big time for the poor - in the hills - the goatherders who were migrants - as well as small town and village people whom nobody in the church was rushing to minister to. Clement worked with the poor - the orphans - but somehow connected big time with the intellectuals.

Clement was a baker - who served the Eucharist to Warsaw and Vienna and rounded up men to be Redemptorists to feed Europe in Vienna and Warsaw and other places with Christ the Bread of Life - and also real bread. Alphonsus was big - big on stressing the presence of Christ in the Bread - the Eucharist.

Both showed Christ on the cross and in Mary. Christmas and Good Friday were big time Christ Presence Moments.


Today - we Redemptorists hopefully carry on that tradition - preaching and making the gospel brand new - freshly baked bread.

Just take last night.

I’m standing there in the vestibule here at St. Mary’s - and I’m watching our St. Vincent de Paul workers - our parishioners serving the poor - with money and food - gifts from the great generosity of this parish.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And just outside the corridor door I see people coming in and out - making their holy hour in our Eucharistic chapel. Amen.
March 15, 2016


Expression sometimes leads to
repression - as well as suppression -
which can lead to depression. Yet
sometimes there are concessions,
because of lessons learned or
someone screamed out an
intercession - and the pressure
ceased and the peace increased.
Then it dawned on me that this is the
least or maybe it could be the best
thing happening in this scenario.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Monday, March 14, 2016



 The title of my homily for this 5th Monday in Lent is, “People’s Lives Matter.”


Today’s readings from Daniel and John triggered the following thoughts.

The first reading is the long, long story of Susanna and how these 2 dirty old men first try to seduce her - and then try to have her killed - when she rejects their manipulations. Check out Daniel 13. 

The second story is from the Gospel of John. I used the same gospel as we had yesterday. It’s the story of the woman caught in adultery. Check out John 8:1-11. 

It seems that the compilers of these two readings hesitate to put these stories out there. They provide options and portions that can be cut. 

Another comment to make is that these two texts are not in some Bibles.  I suspect one reason might be because they have sex in them.  Hello! Sex sells. Hello, both these stories have a greater impact on folks compared to many other stories.


As you know the slogan, “Black Lives Matter” - has been appearing on signs at rallies and as headlines in newspapers and magazines - ever since 2013.

Black Lives Matter.

You can see it as a sign on our neighbor church - next door - The Unitarian Church. If you come in their driveway - off Bestgate Road - the entrance without having to use the light - you can spot a sign that says, “BLACK LIVES MATTER.”

In this homily I want to stress all lives matter.

As you also know T-shirts and signs have been announcing for years now - babies, life,  in wombs matter.

As you also know all lives matter - women, men, young and old - all people matter.

I still don’t know why people have objected to the Black Lives Matter movement.


It’s been my philosophy through the years to be in favor of all movements that push the value of animals - from whales to snail darters. I like it when I see the sign at the end of movies, “No animals were killed in the making of this movie.”

I’m always hoping that people will then make the leap - if the snail darter is valuable - so too tiny babies swimming in the womb.  In fact, I am in favor of pushing the value of all kinds of subjects and objects - especially when they are connected to human beings and human life.

This would include sensitivity to people’s property - and the earth’s sidewalks - avoiding dumping and littering and graffiti.

People’s cars and property value. The minds and ears and hearts and minds of children matter - in our use of language - especially being aware of their presence - when we’re speaking.

I know I’m a hypocrite in this - because I love shoot-em-up movies.

Still all lives matter.

Comments about people’s weight, height, wrinkles, color, look, religion, matter.

It’s quite a job to practice this value in our everyday life - with the way we treat waiters and waitresses - or if one a waiter or waitress - on how they serve others.

Obviously the Black Lives Matter movement wants to stress, “Enough with the killing of so many black men and women.”


If there is any message that Jesus is off on, it’s the value of human beings.

Stop to help them when they are wounded or beaten up along the way.

Hear the cries of the poor.

Jesus noticed folks nobody else was noticing - children, the blind, the lame, the deaf, the crippled. He felt the touch of a woman’s hand who tugged on the tassel of his cloak.

Jesus went crazy with the Pharisees who used people to make themselves look better.

Jesus was off on people who were off on the Law  and not off on the purpose of laws [to protect and benefit people].

This is a central message of Jesus.

The Sabbath was made for us - not vice versa.

If you ever feel in your belly that something is wrong with the priest or politician or person at the podium - that they seem to be in this for themselves and not for the others in the room - don’t do a guilt trip on yourself for judging. That happens.  Maybe you’re on the money.

The preacher can be preaching to get “Wows!” or “Attaboys” without any thought about how they are helping the listeners.

The big leader in pro-life work could be in it for enhancing their own life - their own image - their own prestige - and they are not really thinking of  babies at all.


Let me close with a story that I heard years ago that taught me this lesson loud and clear.

I attended a workshop on how to work well with people - in organizations.

The workshop used the methods of Walt Disney - that his teams use in their theme parks.

The person teaching us said that it’s the plan that everyone in Disneyworld or Disneyland knows how to jump into any job in the place.  Obviously that’s a broad generalization - but the idea was for everyone to be aware of everyone working on visiting the theme park.

Awareness of people was key. If a customer has a sick Down Syndrome person - each person on staff will know what to do next.

At the workshop I was on they told about a hospital which wanted to have that same awareness - for everyone - from the front desk to the surgeons. Well the volunteers who moved people from the curb into the hospital in a wheelchair or from the hospital in a wheelchair to a car at the curb when the patient was leaving,  the following exercise took place.

All the volunteers were to split up into two’s.  One person was to sit in a wheelchair and the other person pushed his partner all around the hospital. Then they switched from pushing to being in the wheelchair.

Then they met in a big group and discussed the experience.

Well, two people reported that the wheelchair pusher used the person in the wheelchair to open swinging doors. Just pushing them as if they were a bumper.


I would suspect something like that happens all the time - people pushing pictures of their grandkids on us - because they want to prove they are valuable - with no thought of their grandson or granddaughter. Amen. 
March 14, 2016


Who me? Normal? What’s normal?
Breathing, eating, bathroom, sleep
sometimes, some work to do, emptying
the dishwasher - but wondering why
the others don’t do it. After these,
what’s normal? Desire, some fears,
some hopes, some complaints - but
they differ? Abnormal? I’m abnormal
when I have no friends, acquaintances,
no one to ventilate to, no delights, no
favorite food and daily moments, no
wonderings about God. Yep, I think it’s
abnormal to have no wonderings about
God - why what is what and why: why is
why? Me normal? Ask my friends?

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Sunday, March 13, 2016



The title of my homily for this 5th Sunday in Lent [C] is, “Drop the Rocks! Do Something New!”

Actually the word in today’s gospel is, “stones” - but the word “rock” has more energy to it. ROCK!

As you know the original language of the New Testament is Greek. It uses the word “lithos” which can be translated into English as stone or rock.

We’re coming to the 5th Week in Lent - and I hear people say, “Oooh! I really haven’t done anything special for Lent yet.”

Solution: Well, do something new. Drop the rocks. Stop throwing verbal stones at people. We have two weeks left in Lent to try this. Do something new. Drop the rocks. Zip the lips. Stop sinking other’s ships.

Stop the gossip. Stop the comments about the boss or the neighbor or the family member or in-law. Stop ruining coffee breaks or happy hours by throwing around sharp edged rocky comments.

The title of my homily is, “Drop the Rocks. Do Something New.”


Today’s gospel story about the woman caught in adultery and these guys who want to kill her is a story we’ve been hearing since we were kids.

KISS. Keep it simple stupid.

The message from Jesus is quite clear, simple, and precise. We get it.  All of us make mistakes - so stop attacking those who make mistakes - those who do MIS  TAKES  on life.

The story has interesting nuances.

First nuance…. Hopefully, the older we are, the more forgiving we ought to be.

Reason: we’ve committed more sins than the younger folks. We’ve been there. We’ve done that. We’ve had plenty of time to look at re-runs of our life. Oooh! We’ve not only done the good - but we’ve also done the bad and the ugly as well.

Second nuance…. Manipulation….

The story teller - tells us that these men are using this woman - using this situation - not to get the woman - but to get Jesus. 

How many times have we done that?  We use someone else to get someone else?  We  bring up other people’s mistakes in hopes of getting someone else to look at their mistakes or mannerisms that bother us. We feel we’re standing taller when we’re standing on top of someone whose reputation we have killed.


If we want to get someone, we’ll tend to reach for any weapon we can get our hands on. That’s why someone people are scared of having easy access to guns. In the meanwhile we all have easy access to our mouth.

I ask couples, “What’s your weapon of choice?”

And they often look at me with a puzzled, twisted or wrinkled face.

“What do you mean?” they finally ask.

“Well, do you use silence - silence to make the other squirm - so they will know something’s wrong?”

“Or do you bring up the past - mistakes that  the other made 26 years, 34 days, 16 hours and 11 minutes ago?”

“Or do you do the fishing expedition trick. ‘You know what I’m angry about. You know!’”

That’s often a good one - because we might catch something we didn’t know about.

If angry, any weapon will do.

I like shoot-em-up movies and the super dooper action hero grabs ball point pens or plates or computer wires or what have you to fight off the other guy. Jackie Chan is great at this. So too the Jason Bourne movies with Matt Damon or Uma Thurman as Beatrix Kiddo in the Kill Bill I and II movies.

I remember seeing a neat bronze statute sculpted by the Russian artist, Ivan Shadr. It’s entitled,   “Stones [or Cobblestones] are the Weapons of the Proletariat.” It’s a 1927 statue of a guy who is picking up a big stone to throw at the soldiers - who are guarding the powers that be and the status quo.

I think of that picture when  I see riots on TV in Baltimore or Chicago or wherever.

If we’re fighting with each other, anything will do, if we want to get at or get back at another - we fight with what’s at hand.

I remember a mother telling me she had broken her whole china closet of good plates at least 3 times - throwing them against the wall - as a way of telling her 5 kids, “Enough is enough is enough is enough.”

She said it was worth it. They got the message that mom is not happy with us kids - and that  would last for at least 3 years.

So once more, what is my weapon of choice?  What are the arguments I find myself in the middle of on a regular basis? What do I get angry at? What works?

So once more, am I being fair? Am I attacking others, because I don’t want to face myself - or something about myself?

So once more, what have I learned about life so far? Have I become more understanding, more forgiving, more giving, as life has gone on - especially from my mistakes.

I always like to remember a promise I made to myself when I was about 10 years old. An old man on our block - if our Spaldeen - or pink ball - went into his front yard when we were playing stick ball - he would not let us get it.  He was being mean. I can always see him standing there - Mr. Meany! - whatever his name was - not allowing himself to be a child again - and let enjoy kids playing ball on the street. So I resolved then and there - at the age of 10 -  not to be like that in my life. Have I succeeded? Ask those who know me.

As life has gone on I’ve seen priests and police and parents who were grouches or grippy about life - and I’ve wondered, “Are they taking out on others how they were treated when they were kids?”


The title of my homily is, “Drop the Rocks! Do Something New.”

It’s still Lent - do something new.

Today’s first reading from Isaiah 43: 19 says just that, “See, I am doing something new!”

In context that text goes like this, “Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; see, I am doing something new!”

The older I get - the more I think - when I see stuff going on - that - what’s happening here and now - is not what’s happening here and now - but something from long ago.

Like these rock throwing killings in Islam and word rock throwing at family fights. I often wonder: “What’s really going on there?”

Can’t we hear what’s being said in today’s readings? 

Isaiah is saying forget the past - do something new. 

Paul is saying  the same thing in today’s second reading when he says, “forget what’s lying behind and hear Jesus’ calls to pursue the new. 

Hear Jesus saying in today’s gospel, “Drop the rocks, open your hands and your heart and your mind and fill yourself with new life. Amen."