Saturday, May 7, 2016

May 7, 2016


I used to think lust and greed
were the main motives - but now
I’m thinking - the main motives
are comfort and convenience.

Then there is laziness: of body, of mind -
not thinking and not soul searching.

Am I saying this because I’m older - or
because I want you to think, I’m wiser?

Ooops! And I sense in time I’ll realize
that pride - that sneaky sin - is the main
sin - and the main motive - this wanting
to feel and think I'm better than you.


 © Andy Costello, Reflections, 2016 

Friday, May 6, 2016



The title of my homily for this 6th Friday after Easter is, “After.”  

A  F  T  E  R  [Spell it out.]

I didn’t know whether to call these thoughts, “After” or “Afterwards” or “Aftertaste” or  “Aftermath” or “What Happened Next”.

After all is said and done….

What happened next?

Feelings ….

The morning after….

Hangover …. as a result of ….  subsequent….  sequel….


What are your thoughts and feelings when you are experiencing the after - the after the before and after…. but only afterwards.

What are you talking about?


After reading today’s readings  the thought of "after" was triggered - as an afterthought.

We’re going through the Acts of the Apostles these days after Easter. The disciples had experienced an ending. Jesus their hope was arrested and killed. So these readings are after Good Friday, after the death of Jesus, after the resurrection of Jesus. [Cf. Acts 18: 9-18]

What happened after Jesus died on the Cross? 

Is that all there is?

We’re going through the Gospel of John - these days after Easter - especially these last words of Jesus - which he spoke at his Last Supper. They are words collated, written down, reflected upon, well after Jesus death, resurrection, ascension in heaven, etc., etc., etc.

Today’s gospel image that Jesus uses is about a woman giving birth to a baby - with tears and pain - but all that is replaced after she gives birth to her baby. 

Joy replaces sorrow.

So too Jesus’ sorrowful mysteries move into glorious mysteries.


I do a lot of weddings.

I hear a lot about all the preparations for the big day.

Two weddings back the bridegroom went up to BWI five times in one day - the day before the wedding.

Luckily for us, BWI is not that far away.

Weddings... anticipation… weather… will everything work?

The day finally arrives - the clock is ticking.

The vows, the toasting, the dances, the microphone, the cutting of the cake, each moment, each event, each part is played out - and then it ends.

The moms and dads sit there on chairs in their home or in a hotel room - exhausted…. It’s done. It’s over. Phew.

The bride and groom - often on Monday morning - getting on a plane - phew all that is over - and they are off to their honeymoon - a new beginning - finally.

Endings .... beginnings ....

Before…. after …. now …. next.




Sometimes the after’s are tough.

After the kids graduate and go off to college, the military, marriage….

After the house feels empty....

After the funeral and the cemetery and the visitors are gone and we’re all alone - or feel all alone....

The house - is filled with the reminders of the before.  The pictures, his or her chair, the bed, the empty place next to us in the car - in the church - at Thanksgiving Dinner with the kids.

After can be a lonely feeling.

Not always.... It all depends.

Sometimes the aftertaste of a good meal - the sherbet - the decaf coffee - the apple pie with ice cream - delicious.

Aftertaste can get us to smile and lick the underneath of our upper teeth.

Aftertaste can also be a burnt tongue.  We didn’t know the soup was going to be that hot.

Sometimes the aftertaste of a wrong word - by us to a sister-in-law or a friend - can still burn. Some hurts hurt a long time afterwards.

Sometimes a sin singes us for life.

Scars come with the after…. after the cut, after the hurt.

After is a human reality that is with us - in 100 different memories and feelings and reminders.

We don’t have dementia yet - so we hurt and we rejoice - depending on the after.


Ascension Thursday - Easter Sunday - are great after feasts. They are calls to have faith. They are calls to realize that we Christians believe, we know, there is an afterlife.

Ascension: get up, get moving, get off your butt, get out of your locked upper rooms, and celebrate the fresh air of new Springs, new life, new beginnings, new before’s - knowing there will be new after’s. Amen.


It’s raining right now - in fact most of this week.

After all, umbrella makers and umbrella sellers love and need the rain.

So too, little girls with rubber boots - loving the rain and the puddles - kicking and splashing....

So too flowers - they want rain.

And if you love green, lots of luscious spring green, want rain.

So too sidewalks and curbside macadam, "I need a thorough washing and cleansing - so I love the rain."


How well do we deal with aging, like life after 30, life after 40, life after 50, life after 60, life after 70, life after that 80, anybody here that old?

How about dealing with arthritis and wrinkles and where did I leave my umbrella and why did I come in this room in the first place and where did I leave my keys?

Any  afterthoughts?
May 6, 2016


A scuffy, scuzzy, someone - 
shuffled up to Jesus’ side.
He looked this someone in the eye.
He did it with love and attention like
he did to every someone he met.

A sleek, slick someone -
went, “Tch, tch, tch, tch, tch, tch!
Look at these sinners, these
nobodies,  who are slithering up to
Jesus - these illegals on our planet.”

And Jesus laughed, and laughed,
and then laughed some more.
What else could you do, when
you love every someone there is,
every someone on our planet?

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Thursday, May 5, 2016

May 5, 2016


The red brick sidewalk had many
broken bricks. Was it the too many
winters or the too many steps? By
the way, weather and winter and use
were expected. But - like my life,
stepped on, no …. broken, weathered,
used, yes, but what’s the next step…?

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Wednesday, May 4, 2016



The title of my homily for this Wednesday in the 6th Week of Easter is, "Simulations of God."

Since today’s first reading is about God and since the Gospel has Jesus telling us about the Father, I would like to talk about God today.

The title of my homily is: “Simulations of God.”

Simulate means, “as if” – “faking it” – “a copy” – “a deception”.

The one we love is not really the one we love. It’s only a simulation, a fabrication in our mind,  built of assumptions about the person we love. 

Then,  if we stay with and love the one we love, long enough, we’ll eventually discover who the one we love really is.

Arthur Clarke said this in this way: “The person one loves never really exists, but is a projection focused through the lens of the mind onto whatever screen it fits with least distortion.”

I’ve often said to couples preparing for marriage that there are 6 people in a marriage: the she, she thinks she is; the she, he thinks she is; the she, she really is. The he, he thinks he is; the he, she thinks he is; the he, he really is.

Say that 10 times very fast....

Well the same goes for God.


In today’s first reading from Acts we have Paul walking around a Greek temple in Athens looking at the different shrines of different Gods - till he came upon an altar with the inscription, “To the Unknown God.” [Cf. Acts 17:15,22 - 18:1]

It’s easy to picture this scene from today’s first reading. When people visit a church for the first time, they take a tour of the place – with their eyes or with their feet.

I picture Paul walking around checking out all these different statues of the Greek gods. He’s fascinated.  Then he becomes even more fascinated and excited when he comes to an altar dedicated to The Unknown God. 

There was his opening for a speech and speak he did.

Interesting – in today’s reading from Acts we hear an old trick people play when they feel an inner "Uh oh!" “We’ll get back to you on this – some time when we have time.” 

Surprise! There’s no Athenian Church or Letter to the Athenians in the New Testament. I would think that would have been the best letter of Paul: To the Athenians.


Thomas Merton says the greatest sin is idolatry.

At times, I think the greatest sin is laziness.

Someone else said, “The greatest sin is our inability to accept the otherness of other people.”

George Bernard Shaw said, “The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that is the essence of inhumanity.”

Others say, "It’s cynicism.”

So what the greatest sin is, is up for arguments.

Today with this story about Paul going to the temple of the gods in Athens, let’s go with Merton. The greatest sin is idolatry - putting strange gods before the real God.


I have a book called Simulations of God by John Lilly. It’s where I got the title for this homily. The book is a great examination of conscience on the first commandment.

He gives a long litany of simulations of God by people. Listen to some of them:

·       God as the Group,
·       God as Power,
·       God as Pleasure and Sex,
·       God as Science,
·       God as War,
·       God as Money,
·       God as Compassion,
·       God as Death,
·       God as The Body,
·       God as Righteous Wrath, etc.
·       He even has God as Computer.

In his book, John Lilly says he tried LSD and his mind showed him some weird stuff.

I never drank in my life – but once I had a horrible flu and was feeling miserable. Someone gave me a good dose of Nyquil. 

I ended up seeing some weird stuff – and the room was really moving and spinning at 5 miles an hour – me with an 102 degree fever. 

It taught me why some people take drugs. 

It taught me why native people take Peyote or Ketamine. 

It taught me why some Native Americans use mushrooms.

John Lilly is a M.D. Having experimented with drugs he recommends not taking drugs for so called “mystical experiences.” 

Instead to get into mystical experiences, he recommends the old fashioned way of prayer and meditation. 

He says from experience that’s a better way of getting in touch with God.

He also describes an interesting thing he pushes. He has this tank of water. The water is only  10 inches high. It’s kept at 93 degrees Fahrenheit. In the water there is enough Epsom salts so that a person can float. The tank is in a very quite place – far from sight and sound. He says that some people have experienced the feeling of discovering the great religious truths while in that tub of water.


I’m sure people use a bathtub for a similar calming experience.

I would also think that Paul’s experience at that temple in Athens can bring about a similar experience as well.

Walk around. Watch people. Notice what gives life and what kills people. Notice what people think happiness is – joy is – what the purpose of life is – where God is.  
Notice people praying.

Like Paul keep on discovering Jesus Christ. Keep on meeting Jesus Christ. Go into Jesus’ presence in prayer and ask Jesus to reveal himself to us. 

Like Paul says, we’ll discover that God is not really that far from any of us. “In him we live and move and have our being.”


All this happens slowly. 

That’s why we keep on coming to church. 

That’s why we pray. 

We slowly unmask our projections and simulations of God. 

And when we do, when we meet God from time to time, we go "Wow!"

As Jesus tells us in today’s gospel, “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.” [Cf. John 16: 12-15.]

But unlike the Athenians who say, "We'll get back to you on all this," Jesus continues. He says  the Spirit of truth will guide us – and give you more announcements to come.

As in every great marriage that works, we discover the person we married is far greater than anything we knew about the other than the first time we fell in love with them.

In prayer, we look at our pursuits and what we’re after. We ask who is our God? And in humility we might say with John of the Cross that we don’t know. And then with Jesus, to accept that as a poverty and hope that he is on the shore waiting to feed us or he is in the boat sailing along with us. Jesus is a sailor.

To go to Jesus and ask for Light

Knowing that if we stay with him long enough we will know him and then know the father

And be like Paul then proclaim him to others so we’ll get to know God. Amen

May 4, 2016


That the water is good….
That you care….
That the Bic ballpoint pen won’t leak in my pocket onto my white shirt ….
That God is aware….
That you’re listening….
That I make a difference….
That this helps….

That this is caffein-free coffee....
That the dog wants more than treats….
That you’ll look before switching lanes….
That you’re telling the truth in this newspaper article….
That the surgeon knows what she’s doing….
That the bridge will hold ….
That these 4 tires are okay….
That this bourbon is actually Jack Daniels….
That there is a tomorrow….

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

May 3, 2016


At some point, everyone realizes
that the other walks up to us to talk
to us with a backpack or a suitcase
filled with expectations, assumptions,
stories and hopes for x y or z to happen.

At some point everyone realizes
that’s why it’s difficult to really hear
what the other is saying, wanting,
desiring or hoping for. Nope: they
have too much baggage with them.

At some point everyone realizes
I  do too. Like those folks who
check the bags at airports, we
have to see what’s inside. Then it’s
easier to talk to each other on the flight.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016



The title of my homily is, “Introducing Philip, Introducing Jesus, Introducing Got the Father.”

Today is the feast of Saints Philip and James.

I just want to say a few words about Philip - leaving James for another day.

The thought that hits me for a homily this morning about Philip is the human interaction called, “Introducing someone to someone.”

We do that at times.

I do a lot of weddings. One of the things I often hear is how a couple met and often it’s because someone introduced someone to someone.

Have you ever introduced someone to someone and they got married?  

At get togethers we often get the opportunity to introduce someone to someone else. “Hi! Janet, let me introduce you to my mother-in-law, Jane.”


There’s not much in the New Testament about Philip, but what we have can introduce us to a few neat things to ponder.

Philip, being an apostle, is mentioned in all 4 gospels  - but very, very  little in Matthew, Mark and Luke. John has a bit more. John introduces us to several information items about Philip. The Acts of the Apostles has a lot more - but today’s gospel is from John.

Philip introduces Nathaniel to Jesus in John 1: 43 ff. Philip introduces the little kid with the bread to help with the great Eucharistic text in John 6. When some Greeks want to meet Jesus, Nicodemus introduces them to Jesus.  [John 12:21]. And in today’s gospel from John, it’s there that Jesus introduces Philip to God the Father - and upon reflecting upon these Last Supper words of Jesus that we get an earful from Jesus about who the Father is.


Philip asks Jesus, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.”

When I read that I’m hearing Philip saying to Jesus: “Introduce us to your Father - whom you’re always talking about.”

Jesus responds with the great text, “Philip. Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”

Jesus continues by saying that is exactly what  he has been doing. Jesus’ words are not his words, but the Father’s words. The Father is dwelling in him. What I, Jesus, am doing is the Father’s works.

W  W: words and works.

That to me is a great revelation.

To me that can be lost - in some of these mysterious comments Jesus  makes in the gospel of John.

Hopefully - a key reason we are in church - is to  enter deeper and deeper into God the Father and Jesus wants to introduce us to our Father. 

I sense people down deep want to know who this mysterious being called God is - what God does. They want to know the why’s of life - and sometimes they voice that by asking, “Who is God?” What is God like? or “Why did God do this to me? Why did this happen?”

I sense that we Christians separate God from Jesus when we get into this area of mystery.

Well, Jesus is telling us here in the Gospel of John - “Get me,  get God.”

“Get me - Jesus - walking around Israel 2000 years ago - and you’ll be getting into God - as you page up and down the roads of Israel with him.

Jesus is in the Eucharist and still on the cross in the suffering and the poor of the earth. I’m thinking mainly this morning about walking with Jesus on the pages of the scriptures - as he stops to talk, to listen, to heal, to feed others.

So we start with the Gospel of John and his mysterious and poetic way of speaking. We unpack some of that. It takes a lifetime. But we also move into the other gospels - and we see God walking down roads - feeding folks, healing folks, speaking to folks.


I think I got this - but forget it too, too often - back in the 1960’s - precisely 1964 when I read Louis Evely’s book, That Man Is You. 

His message was from the story of David in 2nd Samuel 12: 7. David, the King,  had stolen Bathsheba, Uriah’s wife. He was one of David’s soldiers - who was off fighting while David was home having lots of siestas.  One afternoon David woke up - walked out onto one of his balconies and spotted this beautiful woman bathing down below. The rest is history. He got her pregnant - and sin unraveled.

To get David to see what he did, Nathan the Prophet came to David and told him about a rich man who stole a poor man’s sheep.

Someone with had many wives - wanted one more - and basically stole her from Uriah - one of his soldiers.

When David heard about the rich man who stole the poor man’s sheep, he got curious and furious and asked, “Who is that rich man who did that? I’ll make him pay for that behavior.”

And Nathan said, “That man is you.”

David got it and changed his life.

I got it when I read that book by Louis Evely that I’m every character - well not every character - in the Bible - in the Gospels - and when I read and hear the scriptures - all kinds of insights happen.


Well, in today’s gospel, Jesus is telling us about the insights that will hit us when we hear all that Jesus is telling us from the Father and when we see all that Jesus is doing because this is his Father’s will.

What is God like? Why is God like?  Who is God like?

Hello!   H  E  L L O!   It’s Jesus. 

Monday, May 2, 2016



The title of my homily for this feast of St. Athanasius is, “Consubstantial.”

We’re familiar with that word “consubstantial” because it was reintroduced into the English translation of the Nicene Creed 2 years ago or so. 

And it caused a bit of an uproar. People said, including myself,  “Come on now…. The translation we were using was much better.”

Nope we were told, the word was to be “consubstantial” once again.

So “begotten, not made, one in Being with the Father” was changed to “begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father”.


A little history helps….

The question was: how to explain the Trinity in words? What words do we use?

Jesus talked about God his Father. Jesus talked about sending the Holy Spirit. Jesus talked about being one with the Father.

Jesus spoke in Aramaic…. The Jewish scriptures were in Hebrew.

Our thinkings and our talkings are in English. At least mine are.

The revelations about God were told in the Semitic thought patterns of Israel.

How do we tell the story  in Greek thought patterns - and Greek words?

Greek philosophy enters the picture - enters the conversation - steps out on the stage - when it comes to that question.

How can there be three persons in one God?

Are they all God? Are they all equal? Are they all the same?

What Greek nouns to use?

If we are to talk - we have to use some words.

For starters God is a Being. The Greek word for “being” is “OUSIA”.

All three persons in the Trinity are of the same being. The word for “same” in Greek is, “HOMOS”.

As I tell this story - I get nervous - because we’re talking about God here.

Adding to the difficulty and the complexity of all this - is the teaching and the tradition that Jesus was both human and divine.

In English we use the words “nature” and “person”.  That’s another whole history.

In the history of our Church there have been all kinds of heresies - mistakes - fights - discussions on what words to use - without going down the wrong path in talking about Jesus and in talking about the Trinity.

It took history - heresies - time and theology - councils and decrees - to come up with what we came up with.

So gradually the Greek term that was used for “same being” was “homoöusion”.

That was the word used for describing Jesus Christ at the Council of Nicea in 325.

A priest named Arius [258-336]  did not hold that Christ was God.

Some said he was human and God the Father put the “spark of God” in him.

Nope. All three persons in the Trinity were different - but all three were equally God.

Next - when we enter into the Latin, the Roman speaking world, what word do we use for “homoöusion”.  Answer: “Consubstantial. That became the Latin translation of the Greek word “homoöusion”.

It was a Latin word that Tertullian came up with - “consubstantialis”. It’s an adjective. It stuck - even though in time Tertullian struck out as a member of the Christian Church.

Another reality that makes all this complicated is that in Aristotle’s Greek Philosophy - and then Scholastic philosophy, “substance” means the essence - whereas in Western thought and in the English language “substance” often means material - matter.

In Aristotle’s ontology - how he sees being - there are 10 categories: the substance - what makes a chair a chair. That’s invisible. Then there are 9 accidents which can make one chair different from other chairs: quantity, quality, relation, habitus, time, place, position, action and passive.

This substance accident theory from Aristotle will help in talking about Christ in the Eucharist - in the bread. In transubstantiation the substance of bread changes - but the accidents remain the same.

But let’s stick with consubstantiation.

 So the bottom line is this: the Son is begotten, but before all ages, of the Father’s own being and the Spirit proceeds eternally.


That’s a mouthful - far beyond our comprehension - but that’s roughly how the mystery of God as Trinity is talked about using Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, Latin and English words.

So the uproar in coming up with that term at Nicea in 325 - was far bigger than the uproar a few years ago - when we got back to the word “consubstantial” when reciting the Nicean Creed.

To put into words the mystery of Christ - as human and divine - had to be done - but it can never be satisfactory. How could anyone but God understand the deepest mystery of God as Christians understand him: 3 persons in one God.


Today we celebrate Saint Athanasius - his dates were around 298 - 373.

He fought all through his adult life for the theology about Christ and the Trinity that the Church accepted - and was sent into exile 5 times - for his beliefs.

So that is why he is known as the great defender of Christ and the Trinity that the Catholic Church holds today.

Attempts are made from time to time on how God is God - and sometimes theologians scream that something reworded is not correct. It’s heretical.

So I tread carefully in saying what I just said.

Enough already.