Saturday, April 9, 2016

April 9, 2016


Poker,  rummy, Monopoly, Risk….
Throw the dice.  Pick up your cards.
Play the game.  Much will be out
of your control. Luck.... Sometimes
luck is front and center. Your move.

Now chess, checkers, dominos, Boggle- 
those games.... They seem to be based 
a bit more on our skills, our mind, our 
practice, our tricks - how we play the game. 

So too relationships…. Sometimes the other
is not playing with a full deck as they say - 
but some people - some people - this may 
boggle our minds - are way too sharp for us in how they make their moves - in how they play this game called, “Life!” That's the risk 
we take.  Without knowing it - sometimes
we're really playing Trivial Pursuit - "Uh oh!" And sometimes the real game that is actually
going on is Monopoly. Your move.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Friday, April 8, 2016

April 8, 2016


That’s the tattoo to put
on everyone’s arm!

That’s the comment
that should be announced
at the beginning of every meeting.

I.B.M. used to say the word was
“Think!” I prefer, “Consequences.”

Pause! Say it! Become quiet.
Remember the domino effect.
Then ask, "Now what consequences 
can we possibly picture happening?"

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Thursday, April 7, 2016

April 7, 2016


Appreciation - to be appreciated -
to be noticed for what we do - the
little things especially. Is this the
main motive?  Are we hoping to 
hear a “Thank you!” now and then - 
or better, “Let me do this. You’re 
already doing enough around here.”

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

April 6, 2016


Money, fun, sex, the game,
anger, pride, pay back, shame....
Are we all cops trying to figure out
the other’s motive? Or are some
people clueless and do what they
do without knowing what they do
and come to think about, we do too?

  1.  © Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

JOHN 3: 8


The title of my homily for this Tuesday in the Second Week of Easter is, “John 3: 8.”

We often see signs - bumper stickers - and magic marker signs held up in the air at football games -  that say, “John 3: 16.” That’s the beginning of tomorrow’s Gospel reading.  We know that text: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost - but may have eternal life.”

The title of this brief reflection for today is, “John 3: 8.”

It has to do with Nicodemus  as well. It’s this 3rd Chapter of John and the section where we heard Jesus say, “The wind blows  wherever it pleases; you hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. This is how it is with all who are born in the Spirit.”

Last night that got me thinking about the wind - and it was windy these past few days. Isn’t it March winds and April showers?


One of life’s great lessons is that God is a God of surprises - a God of amazement - a God who keeps us in existence for all our life.

John 3:8 talks about the wind.

I wasn’t too good in the sciences - but I do know the value of air, breathing, oxygen.

We wouldn’t be on this planet without air - oxygen. It’s  in our plants. It’s even in our rocks - somehow. In fact that’s one of  the plans if we settle down more on the Moon or get to Mars. They can get oxygen out of rocks and soil.

Oxygen in varying amounts is around.  It’s in our water. It’s in our blood.

In other words, it needs to be around if we are to live - breathe - and be.


Conversion, change, is all about a second birth.

I always like the comment in The Natural - the baseball movie. Iris Gaines, played by Glenn Close, says to Roy Hobbs, played by Robert Redford, “We have two lives... the life we learn with and the life we live after that. Suffering is what brings us towards happiness.”

Some say the big life change is around 33. It’s earlier for women than men. Augustine was around 33.

At our first birth they get us breathing.  The foetus has practiced that - but she or he gets their oxygen from their mom through the cord.

Spiritual writers talk about this invisible thing called wind, air, breath, the spirit as the reality we got to get moving - in a new way.  It’s called ki, prana, ruach, atman, and when we take a new breath - a breath of fresh air, we can start again.

My sister in law named her boat Second Wind. It had another name, but she changed it  when she remarried after my brother had died.

Life is lots of new beginnings…. fresh starts …. second winds ….  small ones - but some significant big new ones.

Jesus comes to give us that new breath, new birth, new life.

Open up the windows and let in the fresh air.

Francis is calling us to open doors and let in new life - especially mercy where mistakes get us hiding in stale air in locked upper rooms.


The title of my homily is, "John3:8."

It's the text where Jesus talks about the wind. 

It's invisible. 

Breathe it in.  Breathe out the bad. Breathe in the new. 

Today - let today be a fresh start, a new birth, with a new wind at our back. 

Like Nicodemus it takes a while to get all this - but hopefully like Nicodemus we get it.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

April 5, 2016


It can be described but not defined. Yet
we can try to put happiness into words -
but it’s better to sit back on a back porch -
on an early April morning and just watch,
just listen: God’s orchestra is playing.

OK history can appear in the air - in inner
sounds and sights as well. Our story is
like everyone’s history: war and peace,
moving carts into bloody fields to pick
up the casualties and to bury the dead.

Happiness calls for forgiveness, table
talk, listening, listening, and laughing.

Or take a nice nature walk. Just  let
the good memories and good moments
take over. We know them. We know
when all is well - and not so well. 

Happiness has to do with work: education,
training, a good job, making a living, skills,
talents, out of work, looking for a job, 
favoritism, retirement, a second job.

Happiness has to do with control: in control,
out of control, can't control, feelings when
I think I'm being controlled or just ignored.

Happiness always has to do with people -
with that one person we have problems
with. It's always one - okay two at times -
and with people whom we know we can’t 
live without - and we tell them that - 
with food - yes food is necessary. A good
meal - good bread - good wine - a solid
table - strong chairs - time - communion. 

Add ice cream.... Come to think about it,
happiness is an aftertaste - so add a piece
of peach pie - if apple pie is not around.

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2016

Monday, April 4, 2016

Henry Ossawa Tanner, "Mary"



The title of my homily is, “Meditating on The Annunciation.”

When you pray the rosary, what do you see, what do you think about,  when you pray the first Joyful Mystery: the Annunciation?


First read the text - the gospel we heard this morning from Luke 1: 26-38.

Read it a few times. Use the old mediation method: Lectio, Meditation, Oratio, Contemplatio.  [a] Read. [b] Then think about what you are reading, [c] Next pray about it. [d] Lastly,  be quiet, be contemplative, let the seeds of thought sink in - becoming pregnant with new life.

Second.  Borrow your kids’ or grandkids’ crayons. “Unless you be like children, you won’t get into the kingdom of God” [Mark 10: 15]. Draw the picture. Picture your imaginations on the annunciation.

Then if you have a computer type into google, “Annunciation Paintings”.  There are well over 100 plus paintings of the Annunciation  - by all kinds of artists. 

Whenever you go into a church - especially a church named after Mary - look for the annunciation window. These windows here are from a Mary Church - 61st Street New York City. 

Study the angels. Compare how others did angels compared to how you pictured angels. Do you have the angels close, above, distant, up in the air, off to the side? Where?

Study Mary’s hands. Looking at all the paintings of Mary, see palms up, palms down, hands crossed, a tight nervous hand, a drawn back hand, a hand over the heart. A hand to the neck. How did you do Mary’s hands in your drawing? 

Henry Ossawa Tanner 
The Annunciation [1898]

I like Henry Ossawa  Tanner’s The Annunciation. 1898.  He was from Pittsburgh. His mother was a runaway slave. She traveled the underground railroad from the south to the north. His dad was a Methodist Bishop. Henry did  some neat religions paintings. I like his Annunciation the best. I also like the blue of The Disciples See Christ Walking on the Waters.

Third: Think about annunciation moments in your life. Discovering when you became pregnant. Or a daughter. or a sister. or a friend announced a pregnancy.

Think about joyful announcements in your life.  Someone asked you to marry them. Then there are  engagements, getting the job.  


I have on my blog some reflections on the 20 mysteries of the rosary. Check out my Annunciation reflections.

But more importantly, since we’re looking at meditating in this homily, let me announce a good annunciation moment for me.

I’ve mentioned this at times to various folks - and some people disagreed with me. No problem. It’s not my problem.

Here it is. I once heard a priest on an audio tape talk say, who came up with the idea that distractions in prayer are a sin? He then added something like this: “To be a human being is to have distractions.”

I would add that they are not sins - but in general,  they are distractions. It’s the same as having a conversation with someone. They mention basketball and we think of the game tonight.  They  mention they are painting their cellar and we start thinking of cellars or a room we want to paint. If we catch ourselves - we come back to this other person - and we try to listen to them better. It can be rude or not nice to look at our watch when they are telling their story - or to yawn - or to cut them off and start telling them about a movie we saw on TV last night.

Picking up a rosary to say one is announcing to oneself, “I am about to pray.”  It’s the same as a Muslim picking up his or her prayer rug - for one of their daily 5 periods of prayer.

The beads can be worry beads. The beads can help us rethink and return to the different mysteries of life - some of which are joyful - some of which are sorrowful - hopefully some are glorious and all are Light Bearing.

And talking about how are mind jumps all over the place. Think of God being able to be in on the minds of over 7 billion people at once. How’s that for a hundred, million, billion, trillion distractions. Wow.

April 4, 2016


Not two words heard too often.
“Happy Death….” Yet we were often told
in the past - to pray for a Happy Death.

Oh I’ve heard people say, “I want
to die with my boots on.” Translation:
“I don’t want to be a burden!” or “I
don’t want to have to  spend 3 years
in a nursing home with a walker or
be in a wheelchair or have dementia
or Alzheimer’s and be a PITA.”

Saint Alphonsus - patron of a Happy
Death - wrote a whole book on the faith
and prayerful side of preparing for death.
It’s entitled, Preparation for Death [1757]
and then he spent his last few years in a
wheel chair - with a body plagued by
severe arthritis.

So pray this prayer:
“Hey, Saint Alphonsus,
help me to live today full of grace.
And when I’m with Jesus Christ
on my cross, whether it’s made of
wheelchair or plastic tubes or what
have you, be with me and bring Mary
too, as well as all the Saints, now
and at the hour of my death. Amen.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016


Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Incredulity of Saint Thomas 
(c. 1601-1602) by Caravaggio



The title of my homily is a question, “Do You Have Any Scars?”

This Sunday has various subtitles - besides being “The Second Sunday of Easter”. It’s also called “Doubting Thomas Sunday” - as well as “Low Sunday”  - as well as “Divine Mercy Sunday”.

Hey, haven’t you noticed that some days can take in various entities:  Secretaries Day, Firefighters Day, and Mother-in-law’s day - and it’s in Poetry Month and Pet Poodle’s Week?

So you’re move - to go with Mercy, Doubt or this Sunday is lower than Easter Sunday.

I’ll go with today’s gospel and today’s readings and stress “Healing” - and entitle my homily, “Do You Have Any Scars?”


If we have a car accident, or we burn ourselves with hot water at a certain stove with a certain pot - or someone in the family likes to hammer us - well when we get near that spot or that pot or that family member - negative energy can go “Ooooooooooooooooh” at us.

Certain people and certain topics and certain words can be Tasers. They zap us.

Accidents can have an aftertaste.

Cuts can leave scars - but first they "Ouch!"

Do you have any scars?

Maybe “Scar Sunday” would be a neat title for this Sunday.

Thomas wasn’t there that Easter Sunday night - so did the other disciples pick and nitpick him all week?

I like that Thomas could be the patron saint not only of doubters - but also of the courageous sceptics - and be like Detective Joe Friday of Dragnet fame, who would say, “Just the facts. Just the facts.”


So in today’s gospel  Jesus comes into the Upper Room - with its locked doors - and this time Thomas is there.

And once more Jesus says, “Peace  be with you!”

And seeing Thomas  - called Didymus - the Twin - Jesus asks him to put his finger into the nail marks on his hand and the wound in his side and believe.

And Jesus praises those who believe but have not seen. And Thomas says, “My Lord and my God.”


The title of my homily is, “Do You Have Any Scars?”

For homework this week, I would suggest making a list of the Ten Top Hurts of One’s Life.

A first step would be to jot down all the hurts one can remember from one's life so far. Just jot them down randomly.

It could be that someone dumped us when we were in the second year of high school or a father walked out on our family or we were fired from some job without any warning. It could be we were made fun of for being too fat or too short or having a bad case of acne while being a teenager and we were called, “Leper” or "Pimples" or "Scab" or what have you.

For some reason we remember the hurts a lot more than the helps - the curses more than the blessings - the mistakes more than the right moves.

Negative is normal.

The lector at Mass makes one mistake or one mispronunciation in a reading and doesn’t remember the 99 words he or she got right.

I have a scar here on my right trigger finger. I just have to look at it and remember the moment I was walking down the street as a kid and I spotted a Red Ryder Air Rifle in a garbage can. I go "Wow!"  and pull it out. It has a broken metal thing - but that doesn’t matter. I pump it once and pull the trigger and some piece of metal slams into my finger. "Oooh!"  Cut. Blood. Yell. Run home and wash it. Vaseline.  Band-Aids. Scar for life. So the gun lobby will never get my dollar.

Next look at your long list of all the hurts of your life that you came up with.  Say you have 73. Well, pick the top ten hurts of the 73 mistakes or hurts of a lifetime. This is tough stuff - hard work - a difficult assignment for homework.

Then put 10 of them in order of the hurt  they were - # 1 being the worst.


Next comes the mercy - the healing - the forgiveness - hopefully.

I would suggest putting your finger on the mistake - if it’s on paper or on the computer screen.

Writing or typing or texting them out - is helpful - because the really big scars are not so many on our bodies - as those on the skin of our souls and our memories. We remember hurts.

So the first step is the naming. Then comes the forgiving.

The call today is to forgive oneself or forgive another person - or forgive God.

Or feel Jesus put his hand on your hurt - and ask for forgiveness.

Did you notice, did you hear,  that revelation in today’s second reading from the Book of Revelation?  

Listen again: “When I caught sight of him, I fell down at his feet as though dead. He touched me with his right hand and said, 'Do not be afraid. I am the first and the last, the one who lives. Once I was dead, but now I am alive forever and ever. I hold the keys to death and the netherworld. Write down, therefore, what you have seen, and what is happening, and what will happen afterwards.'

Write down those things that are killing you - still hurting you - keeping you underground - and rise to new life - because Jesus has touched you where it hurts.

For various reasons - some dumb  - we hold onto the hurts - as if our sad face, soul, will hurt the other or even ourselves for our own sins and mistakes.

Some people shut the door on the possibility of forgives of an ex - or a priest - or God or a parent - or a co-worker - or a family member.

Isn’t it nice to have those big banners here at St. John Neumann as well as St. Mary’s - announcing a year of mercy - and forgiveness.

Nice - if it’s on someone else’s wall or building - but how difficult it is for our own.

Sometimes Jesus knocks on doors - and sometimes we keep those doors shut. Sometimes Jesus comes through walls and says “Peace”.

Respect Thomas - Doubting Thomas - doubts are normal. We could have a great healing moment. This Sunday could be Divine Mercy Sunday for us and we can experience healing and forgiveness - but the old doubts can come back next week.

Sometimes an adult abortion of another - a parent - can stay with us for life.  Maybe an uncle abused you. Maybe we stole a lot of money. Maybe we cheated on a spouse. Maybe we put life on hold for 3 ½ years. Maybe we had a period there of alcoholism.

I still remember being sat on a bench for a whole season as a kid when I played for the Bay Ridge Robins - except for one out in the last game of the season. The manager was the older brother of the kid who got to play every game of the season.   I still feel bad that I didn’t talk enough to my sister Peggy - who was a nun - much of our life. We didn’t have any disagreements. We just didn’t give each other enough time with enough phone calls. We were just too busy working. And then when I had time as she was dying - I kept on getting interrupted by a health care person giving her oxygen.

And on and on and on.


Make your list.

Put your finger on the top 10.

Name # 1 and ask Jesus this Sunday for Divine Mercy - even if you have doubts that you can ever be forgiven - to touch and heal that hurt for starters.


              "Lord, give me scars - 
              scars - reminders 
              that here I was hurt 
              and here you healed me
              with your healing hand.
              Thank you, Lord. 
              Thank you. Amen."

April 3, 2016


There was that day - back there then -
when you arrived on this planet: a baby.

You were washed and rubbed, checked
and needled, wrapped in pink or blue.

You were held, kissed, hugged, loved
by anyone who was there for you.

Don’t forget that day today: your birthday.
Don’t forget the love that waited for you.

Braces, boo boo’s, ups and downs, canes
and walkers are way, way down the line.

Today just pinch yourself for getting a
chance to slide down the slide of life, kid.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016