Saturday, May 28, 2016

May 28, 2016


Guitars, drums, violins, flutes,
trumpets, a tuba, keyboards,
a whole shelf of harmonicas,
saxophones, synthesizers,
sheets and sheets of music, but
all we were silent - as I walked
into the Music Store - just to
peek in on what was inside.

Oh no!  Uh oh! I could hear
every instrument screaming,
“Look at me!” “Check me out.”
“Buy me.” “Learn me” “Play me.”

Sorry! I have a tin ear and have no
feel for music - but I did try the
trombone and lasted at it for
2 weeks when I was in high school.
Then when I left the music store, 
I saw a homeless man just sitting 
there and I heard him screaming 
silently,  “Understand me!”

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Friday, May 27, 2016

May 27, 2016


You meet me 
and ask, "How are you?"

I don't know at times....

And you? How are you today?

I come as is….

Good move because
when I try to be 
or less 
or different than I am …. 
Well, then - 
you’re not really being
with who I am ….

Me?  I’m just this me who I am. 

Wait a second I’m talking gibberish. 

Let me try to explain. 

Okay. This is me - 
the normal me
and the sort of out of sorts me - 
at times.

And some days I am unable to
to explain who I am that day.

Tomorrow, let me try again 
and then there is always next week?

Okay?  See you then.

Wait, if you ask me,
these comments seem
kind of strange or stupid -
or at least confusing - 
but then again - 
what are you really asking me?

Do you know? Do I know?

Sometimes I just don't know.

How about you?

                                                                   © Andy Costello, Reflections 2016


The title of my homily for this 8th Friday in Ordinary Time is, “The Empty Fig Tree.”

We all know the story of the Fig Tree in the gospels.

It’s not producing.

In Matthew and Mark Jesus curses the fig tree, because he wanted some figs and there aren’t any.  The tree dies. The next day Jesus’ disciples see the withered, the cursed fig tree, and remember Jesus reaction to it.

In Luke, the story changes. Did some preacher find the Matthew and Mark version of the story too tough?  Luke gives the tree a second chance. Luke gives the fig tree another year to prove itself. Matthew and Mark don’t.

Which one is Jesus? Do we have a second chance when we are not producing or are we fired?


We’ve all had the experience of opening the refrigerator door and there is nothing inside. It’s empty. Uuuuuh!

Remember the old telephone booths - before cell phones. Someone goes to a phone and it’s broken. It has no dial tone. Or the wires have been cut.

Empty. Broken. Useless. Disappointed.


Today’s gospel  has the message of Mark. It’s tough stuff. It’s filled with tough love.

No figs - no use letting it take up the ground - no use letting it just taking up space - just being an empty suit.  How’s that for a mixed metaphor.

The message might be the same as Jeremiah’s - in his oracle  in Chapters 7 and 8. He finds the temple empty - he finds people treating others unfairly - he finds people exploiting the stranger - the orphans and the widows. He finds false worship.

In Jeremiah 8: 13, we read, “Those who do not find the Lord, ‘There shall be no grapes on the vine, nor figs on the fig tree, and the leaf shall fade.’” 

Here in Mark 11 - we find the same scene. Jesus enters the temple of Jerusalem and doesn’t like what he sees. The next day he spots the empty fig tree and curses it. Then he goes to the temple and cleans house - overturning tables and yelling at those who were selling doves.

He proclaims what was written, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. But you have made it a den of thieves.”

At this the chief priests and the scribes wanted to come up with a way to kill Jesus.


The messages in today’s gospel - as well as today’s first reading from 1st Peter 4: 7-13 - which I hardly mentioned - are obvious - especially the image and he issue of being an empty or shallow soul.

In that first reading we heard, “Whoever preaches, let it be with the words of God.” Some priests - some preachers - apply the image of being an empty fig tree or  temple or empty vestments -  without the presence of God - to themselves. I know I do. I wonder, I ask myself, if my sermons are hot air, popcorn, lacking substance, not having any fruit or nourishment.

When I heard the statement in today’s first reading, “As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” I heard the gospel text, “Give an accounting of your stewardship” - your figtreeness - your templeness.

Some Christian churches don’t allow any fund raisers at its doors.

Hopefully all Christians will apply these words in Mark, Matthew, Luke and Jeremiah about the fig tree and the temple to themselves as human. beings. Hopefully, we all go inwards and look at ourselves as a tree or as the temple of God - and ask if I’m empty or full.

What’s going on within?  Is there any fruit on my tree?

Can God say of us - what Elizabeth said of Mary, “Blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.”

Thursday, May 26, 2016

May 26, 2016


Romans 7: 14 - 25

Why do cords and cables, wires
and rosaries get tangled up - every
time. Mind you: every time.  Ugh.
And every time I reach for the right
cable or cord to re-charge a gadget,
I have to untangle the wires? Why?
My rosary too. Do they do it on purpose
while in my travel bag or catch-all box?

Answer?  I don’t know, but it happens.
It happens every time. I guess it’s life.
I guess I get sloppy. I get entangled
while looking for something else in my 
bag or box and then when I want my 
rosary or I  need the cable for the recharger, 
I discover once more I entangled myself
with myself. Why do I do this all the time?

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016



Congratulations to our graduates - but also to parents, guardians, step-parents, grandparents, teachers, administration, coaches - everyone that got you to this moment.

The title of my homily - better the title of my sermon - is, “3”.

I was thinking while I was with the juniors - on their retreat - this week - as they are about to take your place - what I would say to you today - in this opportunity to say some parting words from this pulpit.

There are 3 readings for this Mass. They have 3 messages: Jeremiah told us through Teresa, “The Lord says I have plans for you.” Paul told us through Patrick: "The Lord is our strength.” Jesus tells us through the gospel of Matthew: "You are the salt of the earth - you are the light of the world": be that.


Okay, now what?

I continued to jot down 3’s:  3 quotes, 3 this, 3 that, and it hit me to give you a couple more  3’s. So the title of my sermon is, “3”.

Doctor Michael Clemmens  - our commencement address speaker today, will give you some clearer and well defined goals - hopes - dreams - challenges. Anne Heyburn will do as well in her Valedictory Talk.

So I decided to I simply pitch 3 poems I wrote for today - with the theme of graduation in mind. They will be what I call, "Story Poems."

Then I want to give 3 prayers - 3 short prayers - to keep in mind for each day as well as for life.

And I'm going to suggest - as I like to - to use your rosary for these short prayers. Each is just a one short word prayer - so it takes just a minute to say the rosary with each or any of these 3 prayers. I like to say that rosaries are not just for Hail Mary’s. These will excellent Hail Mary passes as you’ll see when I get to them - after my 3 poems.

Then I’ll give 3 wisdom statements.

I hope....

That’s all. That's it:  3 Poems, 3 prayers and 3 wisdom statements.



First story poem. This poem is entitled, “Graduation from Clumsy.” I wrote this last Sunday and put it on my blog, because a lot of people are graduating at this time.


Yes, he tripped a bit more than
other kids - he spilled his milk -
dropped his books - and he didn’t
do too well when playing catch 
with his dad in the backyard.

But, if his dad was disappointed,
he didn’t show it, so his son
didn’t know it - that is, till he got
into school - and that’s where he
got the nickname: “Clumsy!”

Yes, he hated it. He hated being
called, “Clumsy!” and it followed
him all through ES, MS and HS.
Bummer. Bummer. Bummer!
Who’d like to be called, “Clumsy”?

So when he graduated - no, he didn’t
trip on his way up to receive his HS
diploma - but yes, he chose a small,
small college, far, far away - with hopes
nobody would know him - as “Clumsy”!  


Second story poem....

This one is called: "The ABC Student."


She got A’s, B’s, and C’s -
all depending on a lot of things:
cold weather indoors, warm weather
outdoors, time, gifts and skill sets -
teachers - no she didn’t tend to blame 
teachers nor did she tend to say, 
“It’s not fair!”  if and when she got a C.

Should we add to her letters that she gets 
an “S” for struggle and  a “J” for jobs. 

Her mom was a single mom - 
and to help her mom with the bills - 
she had to have a job - in fact,  
several jobs - weekends and 
three weeknights  - babysitting ….
but she got it done -
she was graduating - finally and happily.

Her mom pinched herself sitting
there here and now at her daughter’s
graduation from high school.

She pinched herself again because
it was this same year her daughter
convinced her to get her high school
GED - and that evening they would
both be celebrating their HS graduation.

And her daughter thinks she got her
mom the funniest graduation card and
her mom thinks she got her daughter
the funniest graduation card - but 
what both don’t and won't know 
till tonight: it’s the same card.


The third poem is entitled: "Overheard at Their 25th High School Graduation: 2041"


“She married him.”
“You’re kidding.”
“I kid you not.”
“They had triplets and then twins.”
“Now,  I know you’re kidding.”
“Nope, I’m not.  Check it out.”

“I’ve been asking around the hall.
We have 2 novelists, 11 teachers,
4 accountants, 23 engineers,
no veterinarians, a neurosurgeon,
a newspaper reporter, a major
league lacrosse TV announcer,
a Protestant Minister, a priest....
You heard so and so became a priest?


“You’re kidding. The class atheist 
became a priest. I gotta tell my priest that.”

“By the way, who’s that over there
with the big belly and no hair?”

“That’s so and so.... What’s his name again?
He was the best athlete in our class?"

"You’re kidding."

"Hey, who’s the pastor here at St. Mary’s?"

“It’s Father Tizio. They made him Pastor for life.”

"And the dog? That’s not Wilbur, is it?”

No, no, no. That’s Metsi, he's Wilbur’s replacement?

"In a wheelchair? A dog in a wheelchair."

"Hey,  it’s 2041 you know.



Here at my three prayers:

Help…. Sorry …. Thanks.

Learn to say each of them each day - and to God as well as to ourselves - each night. 

They are profound words …,
They are important words …. 
And some people find them 
difficult words to say,
difficult words to pray.

In fact, if you can't say them,
sorry to tell you, you need help.

And once you realize that you'll
thank me or anyone who tells you.

Help…. Sorry  …. Thanks.

In fact, the more you say those 3 words,
and the more you mean what you're
saying when you say those 3 words, 
the more you'll be a well put together
person. You'll be better with God, self and others.

A rosary helps as a reminder.

A rosary of “Help’s” takes a minute, 
so too, “Sorry”, so too “Thanks”.

Try it!


# 1 Don’t forget who fed you: your mom, your dad, teachers, writers, poets, song writers, and that Salvadoran chef in the kitchen behind closed doors who is working his butt off - to give you a good meal - and to make money to feed his family.

# 2 It’s not all about you. Okay it is today. It’s your graduation. But the day after that, it's not about you.

# 3  There are time limits when it comes to how many heart beats we have. We can eat smart and exercise to have a stronger heart - but our heart only has so many heart beats, so use them well.



Thank you…. Congratulations!

The Lord has plans for you.

The Lord is your strength.

The Lord calls you to be salt and light for our world. Amen. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

May 25, 2016


Slipped…. It slipped out of my hand.
“Oops!” It fell.  It slid down the
white porcelain ski slope of the sink -  
down into the drain - down into the 
hole at the bottom of the sink -
before I could catch it. Lost forever.

It used to be the tooth paste cap - that
I would drop or it would slip. Now that
I’m taking pills, lots of  pills - taken with
water, at the sink - it’s these tiny little
pills that have become less and less
manageable for a 76 year old hand.

Aging - time flowing down the drain - too
many friends have slipped away, and lately - unfortunately - too many hurtful comments 
are slipping out of my mouth - before I can 
catch them. “Ooops!” -  I’m slipping. I don't want to become a bitter pill in my old age.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Monday, May 23, 2016

May 24, 2016


          give me the grace
          and give me the gift to be able:

          to see and to hear both sides
                    of an argument,
          to know when to give another space
                    and when to intervene,
                    to step back or to step in,
                    to speak or to listen,
                    to know which one is best
                    for any given situation,
          to know when to let go
                    and when to hang on,
          to be stubborn as a bulldog
                    or to run away like a deer,
          to work hard and then to know
                    when it’s time to play
                    and when it’s time to rest,
          to know when to serve
                    and when to be served,
          to know when to mix
                    and when to be alone,
          to know when to be like rock
                    and when to be like water,
           knowing that you are with me
          and with all others,
          this day and every day,
          all the days of our life. Amen.

                                © Andy Costello, Markings  
[Photo - Rocks and Water 
at the Naval Academy, 
Annapolis, Maryland] 
Mary 23, 2016

          you bend down to earth
          and form and scrape and sculpt us
          out of clay of earth. 
          You say, “We are good!”
          And then you look at us again
          and on second thought,
          you make us more.
          You laugh as you breathe
          your Holy Spirit into us,
          the gift of life and love. 
          And then like a child
          you puff us off out into the world, saying,
          “Increase and multiply and fill the earth.”

          bend down to earth
          over and over again. 
          Form and scrape and sculpt us
          till we are good once again,
          till we are better once again. 
          Breathe your Spirit into us
          and then like children,
          help us to puff out your Spirit,
          a Spirit of life and love,
          the Spirit of Jesus,
          that will increase and multiply
         and fill the earth

Sunday, May 22, 2016



Today is Trinity Sunday - so the title of my homily is, “Theology and the Trinity.”

T and T….  Theology and the Trinity


Our God is a Trinity: Three Persons - but One God.

That’s quite an act of faith. That’s quite a belief. That’s quite different from all other religions. 

Yet we’re monotheists - mono meaning "alone " or “one” - "Theos" meaning  "God' - so one God - but 3 persons.

If we come into this church through the main doors, we make that act of faith in the vestibule before coming into this main part of our church - putting our hand in the holy water font - and making the sign of the cross, “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

It moves me when I see a parent coming into church - teaching a little kid that act of faith - right from the beginning - lifting  a little kid up - to take the holy water - in which he or she might have been baptized - and saying, “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

A father was telling me just last evening at the baptism of his daughter how his little son would crawl over to the stainless steel bowl of water they have in their kitchen for their dog - dip his hand in the water - and make the sign of the cross. We learn so much by imitation and example.

We Christians learn that belief - that teaching - right from the beginning.

As this dad was telling me about his son dipping his finger in the dog water bowl - I noticed how much his two sons look like him.

The scripture text: “made in the image and likeness of God” hit me when I noticed the resemblance of the father to his two sons.

Save that text - for when I get into some theology of the Trinity - later on in this sermon. Relax I’m aiming for 10 minutes.


I’ve discovered that many people have in their homes a copy of C.S. Lewis’ book, Mere Christianity. This 1943 book - based on a series of radio talks - came out in separate parts  - and then was put into a small book.

People have been buying it ever since. When I used to give convert instructions - way before R.C.I.A., I used this book, Mere Christianity, as my instruction book and it wasn’t even Catholic.

It’s a remarkable book - a paperback - still available in Barnes and Noble - and still well worth - not just buying - but reading and studying it. It presents theology.

In Book 4, in the first chapter, entitled, Making and Begetting, C.S. Lewis gives two marvelous examples about the importance of theology - when it comes to religion.

The first example goes like this. C. S. Lewis tells the story about giving a talk on theology to the R.A.F. the Royal Air Force of England - and this old timer - got up and said, “I’ve no use for all that stuff.  But, mind you, I’m a religious man too. I know there’s a God I’ve felt him; out alone in the desert at night: the tremendous mystery. And that’s just why I don’t believe all your neat little dogmas and formulas about Him. To anyone’s who’s met the real thing they are seem so petty and pedantic and unreal!”

C.S. Lewis then says, “In a way I agree with the man.”

I would add that I’ve heard that same sort of comment from lots of teenagers and lots of adults.

They are not here in church with us this morning. Some actually might be out in their sailboats or walking park trails or enjoying the boardwalk or sitting on a back porch with a cup of coffee looking at the rain - or they are at Ocean City  - if it’s not raining.

I heard a niece say clearly to me that playing tennis on a Sunday morning - and then coffee and talking with my friends afterwards about life is much more life giving than sitting in some church with some priest telling me what to do from a pulpit.

I’m sure we’ve all had similar experiences.

Then C.S. Lewis follows up his comment of agreeing with the R.A.F. gentlemen who had a God experience in the desert at night. He begins to theologize - meaning “words” from “logos” about God “Theos”.

He says there is a world of difference between standing on a beach - looking out at the Atlantic Ocean - hearing the waves hit the beach - feeling the salt sea air - compared to looking at a piece of colored paper called a map.

Then he says, however,  the map is based on what hundreds and thousands of people sailing the real Atlantic have found out.  It gives massive amounts of experiences as real as what the one guy standing on the beach has experienced.

Then comes the kicker. If you want to go anywhere, the map is absolutely necessary. The person on the beach can be content as  long as he simply loves walking on the beach. Glimpses at the water are much more fun than looking at a map. Then C.S. Lewis, the Englishman, says, “”But the map is going to be of more use than walks on the beach if you want to get to America.” [page 136]

His obvious message is that theology is like the map.  It is based on hundreds - all kinds of people’s - experiences of being in touch with God.


In the book of Genesis, we have a great statement that we are made in the image and likeness of God.

When I was going for one of my Master’s Degrees at Princeton Theological Seminary, I almost too a semester’s course on just that phrase: We are made in the image and likeness of God. [Genesis 1:27]

That would have been about 15 two hour classes on just that phrase, “Made in the Image and likeness of God.”  It’s one of my lifetime regrets that I didn’t take that course, but we can’t do it all.

I mentioned earlier about the father I met last evening at the baptism of his daughter - and how his two sons were made in his image and likeness.

I heard the same thing about my brother and I looking alike and we both looked like our dad.

Anybody who has taken the time to observe family dynamics - knows ways people are like their moms and dads - and ways they are not.

In this homily let me present one small way we can be and live in the image and likeness of God.  Remember I said, one could take 13 weeks of 2 hour classes on such a theological theme. A sermon is 10 minutes - at times.

A stress in this homily is the call for all of us to be theologians - to stop babbling about religion - and do some deeper thinking about our religion.

The Book of Genesis also says, “It’s not good to be alone.”

It’s when we are in relationships - when we are connected - to each other - as family, husband and wife, friends, buddies, team mates, associates, that we get glimpses of God - and not just when walking on the beach.

Another key book that has influenced my way of thinking is Martin Buber’s book, I and Thou.

He says that many of our relationships are I-It’s.

He says if we treat others as its - and not thou’s - then we are all alone.

The loner is lost. The odd man or odd woman who is  out of touch with others - is losing out on one of life’s greatest blessings: relationships.

Relationships - and lack thereof - is where the action is or should be.

People can go through life without connecting - without looking another in the eye. We can be all alone without any connection.

I don’t know about you, but I am working on this every day - because I can be babbling here in the pulpit - or standing right in front of you - without any connection to you. I can make the other objects - and not subjects.

I can be talking about God - talking of God - without any connection to God - with God - in God - as well as others.

Relationships - connections - people - people with people - this is life.

Just sit on a bench in the mall or Ego Alley in Annapolis - or at the airport - or anywhere - and watch - look - notice - everybody is connecting to everyone with their cell phones.

Listen to the content of conversations - after weather, sports, politics, we are all talking about people.

Listen to our inner conversations - all day long - while driving - while at Mass - at work - we’re all talking to ourselves about people we’re related to, connected to, or having problems with - or supposed to be connected with.


Uh oh. My 10 minutes are almost up.

So a few quick comments.

Christian theology states and teaches and proclaims that God is 3 persons in deep, deep mysterious communion and connection with each other. This is so much - that they are one God - 3 persons.

Husband and wife - that’s the call - to be that with each other - two becoming one.

Family - that’s the call - to be that with each other. 3, 4, 5, more to be one with each other.

Friendships, relationships, that’s the call.

When we experience that - God is telling us - the sky at night in the desert - or the ocean - at the beach - in the early morning - is beautiful - beautiful - even playing a great game of tennis on a Sunday morning - but it’s in relationships - when people are connected - subject to subject - I to Thou’s - that we can have God experienced experiences.

When we get glimpses of that, we’re experiencing the theology of the trinity and a touch of eternity.