Thursday, April 14, 2016

April 15, 2016


The pope - the General - is calling us
to a year of mercy. Lord have mercy.
Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.

Jesus is calling us to less fear
and more forgiveness. Lord have mercy.
Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.

Mercy and truth must meet - must kiss - and be 
the choice we make with gratitude. Lord have
mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.

Mercy is the eye opener, the I opener.
It’s brings all of us to the same table. Lord have
mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Check out Pope Francis
call for the family to "The Joy
of Love" - "Amoris Laetita".
Check out as well the movie,
Babette's Feast.
Rent the movie and watch it
as a couple and/or  as a family.
Type into Google,
Babette's Feast and watch
excerpts and scenes
or the whole movie -
subtitles and all. 
April 14, 2016


Morning has broken...
Another day, O Lord.
Thank You. 

Morning has repaired
the light. That doesn't 
sound as musical, 
as "Morning has broken...,"
but Cat Stevens and 
the birds are singing -
and the dark has gone
and the light is on. 
Another day, O Lord. 
Thank You.

Morning! The gift of
another day, O Lord.
Thank you.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

April 13, 2016


My classmate Jack just died.
This was a sudden surprise.
That’s 3 in the past 3 years.

I guess that’s to be expected
after hitting 73. The Bible gives
us 3 score and 20. That’s 70.

Time's up for me one of these days.
Who’s going to clean my room?
Who’s going to pitch my stuff?

But as they don’t say, I’m taking
a lot with me to my grave, to You,
O God, the other Sure of my life.


© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

April  12, 2016


Ahem…. Ahem …. AHEM!

A H E M!!!

I’m here.

Please acknowledge me. At least
recognize that I’m in the room. I’m
here. I have a voice. I have ideas.

I can count. “One!” “Two!”

That’s me Number 2 when
we’re the only two in the room
or 200 when we’re in a crowd.
You’re number One in whatever
room you’re in. We all know that.

A H E M!!!

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016



The title of my homily for this Third Tuesday after Easter is, “I’m Hungry, I’m Thirsty.”

We’re in the 6th chapter of John these days and the theme is: using bread Jesus takes away the deepest human hungers and thirsts.


At the core of every one of us is hunger and thirst - desire: the inner fire called “desire”.

I want! I need! I was hoping for ______.  I desire. I’m hungry. I’m thirsty.

The little baby - when it comes to all this - can be very obvious - naked - with his or her hungers and thirsts. I want what I want when I want it. I want you - and where are you when I need you - for food, for milk, for love, for attachment, for touch, for skin, for the scent of mom and dad - for their real presence.

The little baby - every little baby is “The Scream”. We’ve all seen Edvard Munch’s painting of  “The Scream”. Babies don’t care where they are. They just scream when they want - when they are hungry - when they are thirsty. I’ve also seen “The Scream” from people in their second childhood - in nursing homes as well.

The core motive for everyone - down deep - is satisfaction - otherwise when their Pampers or Depends are uncomfortable  - out comes “The Scream!”

Today’s gospel ends this way. Hear it again:

So they said to Jesus,
“Sir, give us this bread always.”
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life;
whoever comes to me will never hunger,
and whoever believes in me will never thirst

There they are the two words: “hunger” and “thirst”.


We know what it is to be hungry - to be starving - whether it’s for ice water on a warm day or warm tomato soup on a cold day.

We know when our relationships, our marriages, our families, our friendships are going right. We know satisfaction when our hopes and desires for connection - for good family stuff is going on.  We know when we hunger and thirst for solutions to family problems.


I remember reading about the onion as an image - about life.

I for one never liked onions. They are like mushrooms - I don’t like them either.

But I liked the saying, “Life is like an onion. You peel off one layer at a time and sometimes you cry.”

I also heard that an onion has no core - you peel and peel - and in the end all you have is nothing - and transparency - hold that last peeling - that last layer - up to the light  and we can see right through it to nothingness.

This is true - if we cut off the stem of an onion. However, we all have stems, we all have roots. It tells us where we comes from.

When we start peeling off our layers - when we start seeing our motives - we are getting closer and closer to our deeper and deeper hungers and thirsts - where we come from.

Life is peeling - and sometimes we cry. We are layered.  We might go one layer down into ourselves and discover that another is using us - or we are using another. We might spend our life bragging about our children or our accomplishments - so that others will love us and be impressed - but when  study this thought - hold it up to the light and realize our motive for bragging is because we feel small and unimpressive to ourselves.


Jesus gets us to peel off lots of layers - and find out what’s underneath.

And when we go very underneath, we discover what we’re saying, what we’re screaming about down deep underneath. It’s all about our hungers and our thirsts.

And that’s where Jesus is - down there in our underneath hungers and thirsts.

However, he’s not an onion, he’s bread. 

Monday, April 11, 2016



The title of my homily for this 3rd Monday after Easter is, “Two Great Signs: Bread and Wine.”

In today’s gospel Jesus challenges the crowd - the great crowd of Chapter 6 in the gospel of John. [Cf. John 6:22-29]

Chapter 6 is the Eucharistic Chapter, the Mass Chapter, the Chapter to read if you spend time in the Eucharistic Adoration chapel at St. Mary’s - or you sit here in the quiet of this church or St. Mary’s or any Catholic church - before or after Mass to pray - with Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.

In the gospels, we hear Jesus from time to time going after folks who follow him because they are following him because of the signs, the miracles or because of  the zip and brew-ha-ha of being part of a big exciting place to be crowd that crowds around Jesus. [Cf. Matthew 12;38; Matthew 16; 4; Mark 8:11-12; Luke 11: 16; Luke 11: 29; John 4: 48; John 10:41; John 12: 18.]

In this gospel for today, he’s going after folks who are following him because of food.


I don’t know about you, but I’m discovering in my old age that Jesus’ choice of bread and wine makes big time sense.

We accept by faith that Jesus Christ is present in this great sacrament.

Good -  but I’m also discovering by reason - by human behaviors - that Jesus uses a meal to present basic messages. He uses  bread and wine to help us make greater sense about life - to have a real presence in life.

I’m hungry for food…. I’m thirsty…. I am hungry for meaning! I’m hungry for love. I am hungry for appreciation. I am hungry for God.

Take bread - basic bread - part of meals for lots of people. I don’t know about bread in the Chinese culture. That’s one thing I miss at Chinese restaurants. Bread. I have never been in a Chinese family kitchen or meal to check this out. So to be discovered ....

Back to bread…. Bread, bread, bread,  in all its many variations: rye, pumpernickel, wheat, Italian bread, French bread - as well as in all its shapes - twists, loaves, round, rectangular, rolls, sliced, broken, pulled, shared…..

A whole loaf of bread can be broken and shared with many people.

Bread can bring us together. Let us break bread together. Let us be in communion with each other. Give us this day our daily bread.

When we don’t like each other, we don’t like to eat with each other. Sometimes we can’t stomach each other. We don’t want so and so’s words to take flesh and dwell within us. We don’t want to sit with them or near them and let them wear us out. We want to table their motions - and/ or to sit on another table.

Bread - to become bread - needs to go through a long process. Seeds are planted.  They fall apart in the soil. They die. They change. They stretch out roots. They grow. They become wheat. They are cut down. They die. Wheat is crushed. Wheat rises as flour. To become bread it is kneaded together. To become bread it has  to take the heat. Then with leaven it can rise as bread. Bread brings us to the same table.

Unleavened bread is a whole other story....

So too wine. Grapes - hanging there together, growing, clustering, picked - crushed - and in time it becomes wine. Some wines - look like blood - doesn’t it? Wine also brings us together. Wine tastes good. Wine gives a glow, a high, a lift.

When as priest,  I lift the chalice at Mass at the consecration - before the Our Father - before communion - I think it's like a toast at a wedding banquet - or toasting each other at a meal - clinking glasses - connecting - with glass, sound, the tink, tink clink sound of a toast, the short brief  words we blurt across and up and down the table, the eye to eye connection, the smile to smile connection - the truth that comes with wine. In vino veritas.


The title of my homily is, “Two Great Signs: Bread and Wine”. 

What do you want? What are you hungry for? What are you thirsting for? What is Jesus saying to you today, in these sacred signs? Amen. 


“I don’t believe in God.”

I’ve heard dozens of people say that.

When younger I’d react - and argue.

Now that I’m old, I just become quiet
and talk about what you just said
behind your back - but to myself - within
the walls of my inner room - my mind.

I hear myself saying things like,
“Well, I’ll believe in God for you!”

Or I hear God arguing with you, “It’s like you saying, ‘I don’t believe I had a mom or dad - or for that matter grandparents."
Or, “I don’t believe in the color green
or the color of the autumn leaves.”
Or God’s best come back, saying with
a smile, “Good thing, I believe you exist.”

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Sunday, April 10, 2016



One evening - after a long day at work - a high school teacher sat down to relax before her television set. She flipped the channels till she caught a “sit com”. She didn’t want anything heavy - just something to help her to unwind. Surprise! The following scene really hit her.

A little second grader was talking to her aunt who was baby sitting. Her parents were out for the evening. The little girl said, “Nobody around here ever tells me that they love me.” And the aunt quickly replied, “Your mom told you that she loved you at supper tonight.” “She did not,” came an even quicker reply. “Oh yes, she did.” “Oh no, she didn’t.” Silence. “Well, when did she say she loved me?” And her aunt replied, “When your mom told you, `Don’t eat too fast.’”

The high school teacher was struck by the aunt’s comment to the little girl. So she turned off the television and began thinking how the little girl’s complaint about never hearing anybody say, “I love you” was her complaint about her father all through her life. And looking back now after his death she never remembered hearing him say that he loved her. She began to cry as scenes appeared on the television screen of her memory of all the things that her father had done for her through the years. “Wow,” she said to herself, “he never said that he loved me, but he certainly did a lot of things that show me that he loved me.”

The next morning she told her class about how much the television scene had moved her. However, one of the kids in her class blurted out, “I still rather hear my mother and my father say that they loved me once and a while.” “I agree,” said the teacher, “but what hit me last night was how much people love us without using the words, `I love you.’”

A week later one of the kids in her class was baby sitting her little sister. Surprise! The little sister said, “Nobody around here ever says that they love me.” And her older sister answered, “Oh yes they do. Mom said that she loved you tonight at supper.” “Oh no, she didn’t. When?” “When she said, `Don’t eat too fast.’”


A possible theme that runs through today’s three readings is the theme of love: our love for Christ and Christ’s love for us and how that love should move us to reach out to love each other. “Feed my lambs. Feed my sheep.” This theme of love is especially evident in today’s gospel, but let’s look at the other two readings and then look at the gospel.

In today’s first reading we have a trial scene. Peter is interrogated by the high priest. Instead of once more denying Christ, Peter had learned to proclaim Jesus. And Peter certainly learned how to proclaim his love for Christ. Luke tells us, in fact, that the name of Jesus could be heard all over Jerusalem. The new Way was making its way through Jerusalem and on its way throughout the Roman Empire. It is not in today’s first reading, but in this fifth chapter of Acts we have the famous comment of the Pharisee, Gamaliel.  He said at this same trial that if these people (Christians) are of human origins they will destroy themselves, but if they are of God, we might be fighting God himself. What Luke might be doing here is presenting a case in a courtroom scene on how he hopes Roman courts throughout the empire will treat people of the Way - people who proclaim Jesus as Savior. Luke might be hoping that courts will dismiss cases against Christians as the Sanhedrin did at the end of today’s first reading with the order not to speak again about the name of Jesus.

In today’s first reading Peter also gives a primitive and basic creed on who Jesus is. He testifies in court that Jesus is the one that they had put on trial and killed as a criminal outside the walls of Jerusalem, hanging him on a tree. He has now been exalted by the Father. The one you rejected is now Ruler and Savior. He can bring repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.

In today’s second reading from the Book of Revelation we have another testimony about Jesus. John gives us a vision of how the whole story is going to end - what its going to be like in heaven - and what we should be striving for right now. He describes the heavenly liturgy. The Lamb who was slain is next to the One seated on the throne. Thousands and tens of thousands love them  and are giving them “praise and honor, glory and might, forever and ever!”

If we read and study the Old Testament we will grow in understanding of symbolic language. We will get a better grasp of what is being said in a text like today’s second reading. A lamb is a weak helpless animal. But sometimes the weak and the helpless rise up to destroy the powerful. David, a boy shepherd, slays Goliath, a giant superpower. David was a lamb who became a messiah, a savior of his people. Judas Machabee was a lamb who ended up being described as a lion when he led the people of Israel in a revolution against the Syrians around the year 164 B.C. So there was a hope ever present in the Israelites, that a lamb would appear, a Paschal Lamb, who would take away the sins, the oppression, the abuse, against the people. That lamb was to be the Messiah. In today’s second reading, John is proclaiming that Jesus is that lamb who takes away the sins of the world. Mary had a little lamb. but However, that Lamb became the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world by being slain and being lifted up by the Father for us.

We come now to today’s gospel. We all know some of the background of this gospel. It too is loaded down with symbolic hints and symbolic words. Peter denied Christ three times, so he is asked three times if he loves Christ. The 153 fish that they caught might be referring to the vast number and maybe even variety of people in the world - people of every size and shape and color. They are all out there swimming in the river of life, just waiting to be caught for Christ. Jesus is Daybreak - the Light of the World. He is always on the shoreline of our life - especially after dark nights of catching nothing. Without Jesus we catch nothing; with Jesus we can catch everything.   Jesus feeds people - an obvious symbol of the Eucharist. And lastly, when we are young, we often can control lots of things, but when we are old, so much is out of our hands. Others will carry us off and push us around against our will.


Now any one of these topics can provide plenty of food for thought - sort of like having 153 fish for breakfast. But for a practical application for today’s liturgy, I am connecting today’s readings, especially the gospel, to my opening story in order to stress the theme of loving Christ and being loved by him, loving one another and seeing how much they love us.

It’s nice to hear “I love you” once an a while. Jesus directly asks Peter three times, “Do you love me?” And Peter appeals to the reality that action speaks louder than words. He’s telling Christ: “Have I been this long with you and you don’t know that I love you? Hey! I’ve given up everything to follow you and you’re asking me, `Do you love me?’”

The Sunday liturgy is a distant mirror of the heavenly banquet of love that we heard about in today’s second reading. The Sunday liturgy is also a moment in our week when we gather together with all kinds of people of every size and shape and color and use words to tell Christ that we love him in loud song and soft prayers. The Sunday liturgy provides a chance - especially after receiving communion -  to be quiet and reflect on the presence of Christ and hear him ask us as he asked Peter, “Do you love me?” And then he will tell us to go forth from church and feed the people that we meet, to feed the people in our lives.

And what are people starving for? Aren’t they the two basics that we heard about in today’s gospel: food and love? And sometimes we don’t see the thousand and one ways those around us feed us and love us and we feed and love them. And sometimes we do everything for one another except to say the magic words, “I love you.” Going to church, hearing the readings, hearing a good homily, spending moments in prayer and examining our heart, aren’t they some of the ingredients necessary for us to really see ourselves and the people in our life in newer and better ways?

Take a moment. Be on trial like Peter. Look at your life. Do you love Christ? Do you publicly stand up for Christ? Do you love one another? Do you publicly stand up for one another? Are we like Peter before or after his conversion? Are we running away from each other like Peter ran away and denied Christ on the night Jesus was arrested or are we like Peter in today’s first and third reading, standing up for Christ and telling him that we love him?

The Sunday liturgy then is a great reminder to look at our own life and the people swimming in the same river with us. Is there anybody that we love that we have not said the three magic words “I love you” to? Why not do what Stevie Wonder did in his song, “I just called to say `I love you.’”

Is there anybody in our life that we are denying love to?


It’s never too late to change. At the end of today’s gospel we have the message that when we are young we often can go about as we please, but when we are older, things often change. And we have all heard people moan and groan because they never told another that they loved them and it was too late. Death or distance or too many distractions got in the way.

Peter was lucky. The Risen Christ came back to him and gave him a second chance. At a breakfast on a lake at daybreak Christ became present to Peter and gave him another chance to tell him that he loved him. And then Peter was given the chance to live his life in service for Christ and his people.

It is never to late to change. It’s never too late to tell the living as well as the dead that we love you. It’s never too late to realize that so many people all through our life have loved us so many times and in so many ways. “Don’t eat too fast. You might miss the love.” 


 Some of us have memories of doing something wrong as a little kid and being sent to our room. We refused to eat our broccoli or asparagus and then got into a temper tantrum. Or we got caught playing with matches or kicking the cat or hitting our younger brother.

And sometimes that same younger brother started to chant, “Shame, shame on you! Shame, shame on you!”

Some of us have memories of “having an accident” in kindergarten and some kid started to chant, “Shame, shame on you. Shame, shame on you!” and then some of the other kids chimed in.

Some of us have memories of being a teenager in school and getting caught cheating on a test or writing a term paper using other people’s stuff and we wanted to hide, escape, be anywhere, but where we were. And sometimes we heard echoes in the halls of our memory of that childhood chant, “Shame, shame on you! Shame, shame on you.”

Some of us have memories of doing something wrong as an adult. We stole money at work or we changed a report or we were seen in the wrong place with the wrong person at the wrong time. We were spotted.  We turned red. We wanted to run to some dark room and cower in some corner – far, far away from everyone.

And once more we heard the echo, “Shame, shame on you!”

And some day we might be in a nursing home and we’ll reflect upon our life and feel that we worked hard but our nets are empty. Our kids dropped out of church or their marriages fell apart. Or our arms will be tied to a wheelchair so we won’t fall out or tied to the rails of a hospital bed because we keep pulling at our plastic tubes. Or we are incontinent and we want to disappear from the whole human race.  And once more we hear down deep echoes of that childhood chant, “Shame, shame on you. Shame, shame on you!”

So at times, from Pampers to Depends, some of us experience feelings of shame, “Shame, shame on us!” And for some, shame is the name of the game.


Psychologists, anthropologists, sociologists speak about shame. But shame is not new. Our scriptures and the sacred scriptures of other religions often feature stories about people experiencing shame.

Today’s gospel features Simon Peter – the one who denied Jesus three times – being asked three times by the Risen Lord, “Do you love me? Do you love me? Do you love me?”

We don’t know if Simon Peter is filled with shame or guilt or what he was feeling at the time. Do we ever really know what another is feeling? All we can know is the state of our mind, if we were in their skin. We project. We reflect. We see what has happened to another and we think we know what we would feel if we were in their boat.

Yet, we can say, Peter is feeling something. Shame? Guilt? Empty? A failure? Stupid? Dumb? Humbled?

And we can also say, there had to be some shame in the story of Peter, because shame is so basic to every human being.

We see the reality of shame in one of the first stories in Genesis. Before Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, they were naked, but felt no shame. (Cf. Genesis 2:25). But after their sin, their eyes were opened and they felt shame and made clothes and hid from God. The author of Genesis is simply reporting what is the same for everyone in every culture. The names and the places are different.

Peter denied Jesus three times. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all tell us this sad story in detail. The first three add that after Peter heard the rooster scream, he remembered that Jesus said this was going to happen, “And he went outside and wept bitterly.” (Cf. Matthew 26:75; Mark 14:72; Luke 22: 62; John 18:15-27).

Peter the braggart – the one who said, “Even if all lose faith in you, I will never lose faith,” lost faith and surely wanted to hide his face. He was exposed, naked, scared. (Cf. Matthew 26:33-35; 26:69-75.)

Do we say to Peter, “Shame, shame on you! Shame, shame on you!”?

Of course not.  But of course, Peter felt shame. Shame is as basic to the human being as skin. We all know the feeling. We’ve all been there.

Did Jesus feel shame?

Who of us can answer that question? But those who killed him surely wanted him to feel shame. Isn’t that why Jesus was stripped and nailed to a cross? Cultural anthropologists like Bruce Malina often write about shame and honor as pivotal human values. In his book, “The New Testament World,” he points out example after example  from the First Century Mediterranean background of Jesus of how  people tried to motivate and manipulate people by means of shame. They stripped Jesus and nailed him to a cross, naked or almost naked, like a common criminal.

Jesus had shamed them, so they wanted to shame him in return – shame him for claiming to be a King, for claiming to be the Messiah, but even deeper, because he exposed the Pharisees and the Sadducees in their emptiness. Jesus saw right through them.

Jesus was constantly saying in so many words to the Scribes, the Pharisees and the Elders, “Shame, shame on you! Shame on you for all the burdens you lay on people. Shame on you for ruining the Sabbath for so many people. Shame on you for your empty prayers – your lip service – from hearts that are filled with dead bones and the stench of sin.”

But Jesus didn’t want to leave people in shame. He preached that love and forgiveness are much deeper than shame. This is perhaps Jesus’ biggest teaching.

From the cross, the place of shame, Jesus said, “Father forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.” He forgave those who spat, cursed and crucified him. And in doing this, in saying this, he gave everyone a way to move out of the empty net called “shame” to the full net called “love”.

Jesus says from the cross, “Do you love me? Do you love me? Do you love me?”

Did Judas feel shame?

Once more we never know what another is going through, but once more we know what we would be going through. Matthew ventures into Judas inner feelings when he tells us, “When he found out that Jesus was condemned, Judas his betrayer was filled with remorse.” Judas took the money back to the chief priests and elders and announced that he had sinned. But they washed their hands of shame and rejected Judas and his money. Judas then flung the silver coins on the floor of the sanctuary and went out and hung himself. (Cf. Matthew 27:3-10.)

Both Matthew and Mark add what might be the saddest line in scripture, “It were better for him that he never had been born” (Matthew 26:24; Mark 14:21). Both Jeremiah and Job said this of themselves, but here we have Jesus saying this of someone else: Judas. (Cf. Jeremiah 20:14; Job 3:3)

Too bad Judas didn’t remember all the many parables and words of Jesus about forgiveness. Too bad he didn’t wait, allowing the Risen Lord Jesus to come to him, like Jesus came to Peter in the upper room and at the Lake of Galilee. Wouldn’t it be the best story in the gospels, better than the story of the Prodigal Son, if Judas didn’t kill himself, but instead Jesus rose from the dead and brought him forgiveness?

But life doesn’t always have happy endings. Remorse, anger at what they have done, shame, can cause people to commit quick or slow suicide.

Peter’s story is the happy ending. Today’s gospel features Peter again meeting the Risen Lord Jesus. 

It’s a fresh start for Peter. Like the first time he met Jesus, once more he’s fishing and once more he comes up empty. Once more Jesus becomes the fisherman of both fish and Peter. Once more Jesus makes a great catch.

Peter changes. The apostles changed. We have Peter here in today’s first reading no longer denying Jesus, but rather proclaiming Jesus. And as we read The Acts of the Apostles we see that the net, the boat, the church, becomes filled to the breaking point – with people.

Proclaiming the Name of Jesus, as today’s first reading reports, became their way of life. “The apostles for their part left the Sanhedrin full of joy that they had been judged worthy of ill-treatment for the sake of the Name.”

Evidently, for Peter, joy about the Name of Jesus replaced his feelings of shame about it.


Let me conclude with two practical applications:

1) How Do I Deal With Shame In My Life?

Obviously, into every life some shame shall fall.

Obviously, we should feel shame and guilt about sin in our life. We all need to be able to say, at least to ourselves for starters: “I made a mistake.”; “I sinned.” “I am not God.” “I am ashamed of things in my life.” If we can’t admit our original and unoriginal sins, we can become righteous, modern day Pharisees.

Obviously, we should be aware of shame and how it can paralyze and hurt us, especially if it’s unhealthy shame.

Obviously, shame works, but we should not use it to manipulate adults – especially as a way of avoiding communication.

Obviously, shame is taking place all the time. Shame is the name of the game. Shame works. It’s behind the scenes in many television advertisements, but too often it’s also the bottom line of our judgments about each other. By attitude, words, gestures, people often say things like: “Shame, shame on you for having so many kids.” “Shame, shame on you for not having kids.” “Shame, shame on you for being a stay-at-home mom.” “Shame, shame on you for going out to work.” “Shame, shame on you for staying in that neighborhood.” “Shame, shame on you for having such an ugly old car.” “Shame, shame on your for having a brand new car.”

2) Love and Forgiveness are Better Than Shame.

Obviously, love and forgiveness are better than shame.

Obviously, we all need to do some deep letting go of hurts and anger towards family, teachers, people we have worked with, church people, anyone and everyone who shamed us somewhere back there in pages of our life.

Obviously, we all need to do some deeper reflection on shame in our life. Some make a distinction between shame and guilt. Guilt is  feeling, “I made a mistake.” Shame is feeling, “I am a  mistake.” That distinction can be made on paper and in our mind, but when we are feeling shame or stupidity or guilt for something we have done, we don’t make distinctions. We just feel dumb, hurt, stupid, embarrassed, guilty. The word “shame” can sum it all up.

Obviously, such feelings should lead us to be ready to receive Jesus into our life. He’ll come. The Risen Lord always approaches people and calls them to service – one great way of moving out of shame.

Perhaps, when we feel deep shame or guilt or “whatever”, we should approach Jesus first and say three times, “Do you forgive me? Do you forgive me? Do you forgive me?”

And maybe the Lord Jesus will laugh and say, “You beat me to the punch line. Well, anyway I’ll say to you what I said to Peter, ‘Do you love me? Do you love me? Do you love me?’ Let’s eat.”
FISH # 154

The title of my homily is, “Fish # 154.”

This is a story. Let’s see if this works.

Once upon a time there was this great group of fish – a school of fish as they call a community of fish – 154 fish in all – and they lived in a nice big lake – called Galilee.

At one time it was called the Sea of Tiberius – named after the Roman Emperor, Tiberius.

Big shots, politicians, famous folks often like lakes and schools named after them.

Well, anyway, this was a very smart school of fish. When fishermen threw their nets off the right side of their boats, these 154 fish would be on the left and when fishermen threw their nets off on the left side of their boats, this school of fish would be on the right side of their boats.

As I said, this was a very smart school of fish. As a result, they were never caught. As a result they became really big fish.

And as in any school, there were rivalries. Some fish raced to be faster than others; some jumped higher; some dived lower. Competition rules the waves as well as the land. So there was jealousy and pride and pushiness at times amongst these fish – but all in all, the 154 hung together. It was not sink or swim. It was either swim or be caught.

Well, surprise, one late, late, late night, or almost early, early, early morning a stranger stepped into those waters and quietly with a single swing of a small net he caught one fish.

The school sensed something so they swam out of harm’s way into the deeper waters as fast as possible.

“Woo, that was close,” they said to each other.

Well, everyone was scared.

“Who was that fisherman? We thought we knew all the fishermen in these waters.”

Someone said, “Number 154 was getting old. That’s what happens when you don’t keep up your swimming techniques.”

They were now 153 fish.

 Number 154 was now on the shore.

The lone fisherman, a stranger, stood there in the early, early, early morning preparing that 154th fish for breakfast. He cut the fish’s head off first. Ooooh! That hurt. And he calmly placed the head down on the ground – eyes facing a fire. Then he cut the fish in half – and fitted it on a piece of wood, a spit, that was in the shape of a small cross to put it on the fire.

And the dead fish was thinking, “Well, I guess this is what life’s all about – dying to give your life so others might live.”

Just then the sun began to rise as the sun always does.

And the lone fisherman by the fire on the shore of the lake could hear a boat headed his way coming towards shore.

They were young men, fishermen, and the stranger yelled out, “Did you catch any fish?”

And they yelled back, “No, there were no fish out there last night.”

The stranger’s voice sounded  a tiny bit familiar.

And the 154 fish listening down below laughed, because once more they outfoxed, oops, out fished,  the fishermen.

And the stranger on the shore said, “Cast your net off the right side of the boat and you’ll find something.”

And they did.

Surprise their nets were filled – with such a great catch of fish – they couldn’t pull the net to shore.

One of the fishermen yelled, “It is the Lord.”

One of the other fishermen jumped into the water and headed for the Lord.

The other fishermen pulled the net full of fish toward the shore. They were not too far out.

When they landed they saw the fire and they saw the fish on the spit and some bread.

And the stranger said, “Have some breakfast.”

And they knew it was the Lord.

And the one who used to do all the counting was gone. Judas was his name. So the other disciples counted the fish, 153 – and they kept them in the water in the net – so as to keep them fresh – and they all wondered what was going to happen next.

Up to that moment - they thought the Big Fisherman named Jesus - was just a dream - a dream they dreamed - and it was good.

But when he was arrested and killed on a cross, they figured that was it. No more bread, no more wine, no more crowds, no more adventure, no more healings, no more preaching,   no more life with Jesus.

As they ate that breakfast, as they ate the fresh fish, as they ate the fresh bread, they knew - as if it was a sunrise staring them right in the face, this was only the beginning - like back on the beach that first day he called us - like that first day we had the big catch, and he said, “Come follow me! I’m going to make you fishers of others.” 

And yes, on that beach, on that morning, once more they heard him say, “Come follow me.”

And fish #154 saw it all - well sort of.