Saturday, August 20, 2016

August 20, 2016


I spotted a big V of geese flying
neither north nor south. It’s August.

Were they screaming, “Look at that!”?
Or were they praying, “Thank You, God”?

I stood in a silent subway car of evening folks -
eyes down. It seemed with no sense of thanks.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Friday, August 19, 2016

August 19, 2016


Did you know that hay doesn’t cut
unless it’s cut? I didn’t know that
till we were picking up bundles and
bundles of hay from a hay field -
and I looked at my bare arms -
all cut up from cut hay. The next
day - even though it was humid
and hot - I wore a long sleep shirt.
There’s a message there in those
fields - but I’m not sure just what
it is - except: leave things alone
and they will remain smooth. Cut
them and they will cut you back.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Thursday, August 18, 2016



The title of my thoughts for this Thursday in the 20th Week in Ordinary time is, “Does Anyone Have an Extra Jacket?”

How many times have we found ourselves in an “Uh oh!” situation when it comes to having the right clothes for the occasion?

If you saw and loved the movie, As Good as It Gets, you’ll remember the scene in the restaurant - where Melvin Udall [Jack Nicholson] needs a jacket.  You’ll also remember his comments about Carol Connelly’s [Helen Hunt’s dress] at that same restaurant.

"Does anyone have a jacket I can borrow?"


That’s the question that hits me as I read today’s gospel parable. It’s Jesus’ story about the guy who comes to the wedding banquet - without a wedding garment.

And the king spots him and asks, “My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?”

Stuck, shamed, silent, the king then says, “Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”

The guy doesn’t even get a chance to scream, “Wait a minute! You were stuck with an empty banquet hall - because nobody showed up - so you rounded up us nobodies and now you want to toss me out into the dark? No wonder, nobody showed up at your lousy party in the first place.”

The story is in Matthew 22: 1-14.  It seems Matthew likes to throw us a curve ball - making things tougher than it seems Jesus wants. When Luke tells this story from Jesus [14: 15-24], there is no mention of having to have a wedding outfit on. The great unwashed - found on streets and in alleys - the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame - all are invited into the banquet - no questions asked.  Welcome.

I’m heading into heaven with Luke’s version of the story - in ball point pen on my hands - that is, if they don’t cremate me. Smile.

Like the Prodigal Son in the next chapter of Luke, if God the Father wants me to be different than I am - a pig smelly sinner - if he wants me to arrive in heaven with fancy clothes on - let him provide the soap and water, the ring, the sandals and the finest robe.


Yes, what is God like?

I don’t think that’s the theme in today’s gospel - but that’s the thought that hits me.

Being a slob  - I’ve seen people give me the sneer - with what I’m wearing. 

I never met either of them - but I think I’d be more comfortable at a cookout wearing shorts and a T-shirt - with Pope Francis than with Pope Benedict.

So that’s what I’m saying here, I’m more comfortable with Luke’s Jesus than Matthew’s Jesus.

I just hope when I die, I’ll meet Andrew’s Jesus.


How about you?

And if you asked me, “Does Anyone Have an Extra Jacket?” I’d say, “Good news! You don’t need one.”

August 18, 2016


Is that one or two words?
Is that a relatively new word?
I don’t remember hearing it
three to five years ago.

Is it like “backstage”? One word….
Is it like “back room”? Two words….
Is it like “backdoor”? One word....

But back to “back story” ….
It’s a good move - to go backstage
or to take the backdoor 
into the back room -
to try to get to
what might be going on
in the back of another’s mind.

Surprise! We might find ourselves
back in the middle of 30,000
conversations - and happenings -
way back before e-mails ever existed.  

Please smile on your way out
the back door - with your back stories
in your back pack.
Cute. What’s the back story with all this?

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Wednesday, August 17, 2016



The title of my homily for this 20th Wednesday in Ordinary Time  is, “The Big Scream: ‘It’s Not Fair!’”


At times I’ve wondered: Is the big scream coming out of every gripe, every depression, every angry person, every child, every family, marriage,  every person: “It’s not fair”?

At family gatherings - like every year I spend 4 or 5 days at Thanksgiving with my brother’s girls and their families - I watch actions and reactions.

Kids eat first. Then the adults. While we're eating the kids disappear into various nooks and rooms and floors of the house they rent. The last few years it’s been at Virginia Beach - Sandbridge - on the ocean. Before that it was an Rehoboth and before that Deep Creek Lake. After the adults eat comes dessert. Somehow every kid arrives very quickly after the ice cream and brownies and pies and cakes are placed on the counter.

That’s when I really watch.

That’s where I first started to wonder if a kids’ basic scream is, “It’s not fair.”

I wonder if I screamed that scream: “It’s not fair.”

I’m the youngest of four - so I don’t know if the youngest is at the biggest disadvantage.

I wonder if our nation’s families - our world’s families - are losing out - by having smaller families.

I wonder if the question of fairness comes up more often in bigger families than smaller families - because there many more moments for comparisons. 

I also wonder if a bigger family helps a person resolve the fairness question better than being in a family with less brothers and sisters.

Was having one bathroom a better teaching possibility?  In fact, is the bathroom in a one bathroom house,  the best classroom in the house - because it offers the most moments to think of others.


Does the question of fairness continue longer - even all life long - for some folks?

Is the issue behind every whine - the “It’s not fair!” scream.

Obviously some cars - some homes - some salaries - some seats in church or a restaurant - are better than others.

I don’t know about you, but I am glad I was born in Brooklyn compared to Bagdad. And there’s a town there in Ohio between Lima where I lived and Paulding where I did a bit of work - that I’m glad I never lived in the in between town.

When it comes to music, I have a tin ear. When it comes to ability to draw, I am still a baby with crayons - doing scribble and stick figures.

Not everybody has the same skills, skin, figure, family than the next person.

So what about the “It’s not fair!” question.


Does the Parable of the Generous Landlord in today's gospel [Matthew 20:1-16]  help with this question?

He needs laborers for his vineyard so he starts hiring at dawn - and they workers and owner agree for the usual daily wage.

He spots other laborers at 9 AM, noon, 3 and then 5 o’clock. Each time he hires them to work in his vineyard.

At the end of the day - when he starts handing out the daily wage - he starts with those he hires at 5 PM and gives them the usual daily wage - so too those he hired at 3, noon, 9 AM and at dawn.

Seeing that, those who worked a lot more expected a lot more.

They all get the same piece of the pie.

 Not fair. Not fair. Not fair.


We have a family story about my brother.

He stopped in to see his buddy Marty - who was playing ping pong with his youngest son, David.  

My brother says to David, “Let me see what kind of ping pong paddle you have?”

The little kid hands the paddle to my brother who then moves to the table and says to Marty, “Three over for serve.”

And David screams, “That’s not fair. I was playing with my dad first.”

And my brother says to David, “Kid, let me teach you one of life’s greatest learnings, ‘Who said life is fair?’ Three over for serve, Marty.”

David told that story at my brother’s funeral and we all laughed - but we all got the message - especially that of my brother dying of melanoma at 51.


What is the conclusion?

What is the lesson?

What is the message?

Jesus says to the disgruntled whiners, “I didn’t cheat you. I gave you the usual daily wage.

Am I not free to do as I wish with my money

Are you envious because I am generous.

Hey, the last shall be first and the first shall be last.

“Hey, God, that’s not fair.” 
August 17, 2016


If the tree knew it was going to become 
a solid wooden dining room table - 
hearing hundreds and hundreds and
hundreds of supper talk, homework talk, 
tears, spilled milk; if it knew it would 
become a rich brown - very, very visible
- dining room floor or door; or part of the underneath of  a bedroom wall, then….
Then would it cry "NO!" when it was 
about to be cut down? Would it? Really.... 
When would wood scream, “Pick me!”? 
How about a cross? A toothpick? No. 
A chopstick? Well, maybe…. but tell me more?

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Tuesday, August 16, 2016



Today’s readings sort of po poos  riches. Today’s readings warn us about riches and power. Today’s readings talk about the top being toppled.

So at first I wondered if the title of my homily should be, “Is Poor Better?”  Or, “Is Weakness Better than Power?” Or “Is Sickness Better than Health.”

“Of course not,” came my inner answer.

Of course I thought of Simon and Garfunkel's song, "Richard Corey" - from the poem by Edwin Arlington Robinson.

Of course,  I also  thought about Woody Allen’s comment: “Money is better than poverty,  if only for financial reasons.” Cute… but….

Then I added to my thought process, the wisdom statement, “It all depends.” 

And in saying that, I realized that rich could be better than poor or vice versa, depending on what we learn, what we know, and what happens next in whatever situation we’re in.

In thinking about all this, I came up with my question and my title for this homily for this 20th Tuesday in Ordinary Time: “Do The Poor Know More?”


I think that’s a great question.

I don’t have answers - but I do have wonderings and comments.

I think of the British TV series: Upstairs Downstairs or Downton Abbey. The comments by the servants - their observations about the life of the rich and the famous - interesting…. sometimes very sharp and very insightful.

I’ve noticed many a waiter and waitress eavesdropping on the conversations of those being served at the dinner. Is watching and listening as good a course as a college course while serving a 4 course dinner?


In today’s first reading from Ezekiel 28: 1-10, the prince is stupid with all his wisdom and intelligence,  if he thinks he’s a god.

Doesn’t he realize what is about to happen?

Once we think we’re god, we might think nothing is going to go wrong. After all, all is in our power.

The poor - the powerless - often don’t know what’s going to happen in the next hour. They certainly know they are not God!

Not knowing what’s going to happen next, knowing things are out of our control for the most part, can trigger nervous habits - or better bending skills. It all depends.

Of course there are things we can control. We can pitch our tent not so close to the river in the rainy season.

Earthquakes?  Yes - some know where some of the fault lines are.  Yes - some places are worse than others. Yet, our whole kingdom could quake and crumble at any time.

I’ve heard that dogs get the signals that an earthquake is coming - long before humans know.  And when the earth  crumbles - when it’s attacked, the real me - is more or less -  human like every other human being. We are not a god.

So in today’s first reading Ezekiel the prophet is saying to the rich and the powerful: wake up - the future is fragile.

And in today’s gospel from Luke 19: 23-30, the one who is the fat cat ain’t going to be able to slide through the eye of a needle.  Nor will the loaded down camel with all the riches in the world  - be able to fit through the eye of a needle.

Camels think thin....

Both Ezekiel and Jesus are telling us to let go - lighten up - simplify - smart up - then we will be able to start slipping through the needle into God’s kingdom.

It’s then we can get glimpses of God’s plan for all of us - that we’re all brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, children - with the same Father - the true God of all of us.  We’re all called to serve - as well as to have a seat at the table. We’re all rich. We’re all poor.  

So it all depends what we’re looking at - and what we're learning. 


The poor, the people of Aleppo in Syria with battle raging right now, the person out of a job and on the street - are in a bummer of an experience, but they could become better by those  experiences or worse.

It all depends.

Experiences can make us better or bitter.

Absence can make the heart that much smarter, fonder, quicker - but also angrier.

Poverty can bring us to our knees in prayer.

Poverty can bring us to go back to school for new skills.

Sickness, cancer, can get us to grasp what’s really important.

We’ve all heard the saying, “Experience is the best teacher.”

I’ve heard people say to that, “Not necessarily so. People can have the same experience a dozen times and still be stupid.”

So once more, it all depends.

So the secret to life is learning from life.

So a secret is to ask: “What’s the lesson here?”  “What’s the message here?” “What’s going on here?” “Where are you, God, in this darkness or blinding light?”

Those who learn - can become the wise - and then they can bring their gifts to their others.

The poor, the uneducated, can become very rich and smart - with inner insights - even when there is nothing in the refrigerator.

Once we learn - that we don’t know - that we’re poor - that we’re not god almighty - then we can start to listen to others. It’s then the true richness of others starts to appear.

So the poor can know more.


Once we have that attitude towards others - that we really don't know each other - that we're not better than others - we are becoming rich with attitude.  

Once we know that the waiter and the waitress, the wheel chair bound and the toll collector at the bridge - the guy with the lawn mower - who can’t speak English - who is illegal - as well as his wife who cleans big houses - are all members of the kingdom  - are all children of God - then we’ve slipped through the eye of the needle - and now we can sew together the world God has called us to be part of - in this quilt called, “Creation.”

August 16, 2016


Since we keep so many things quiet,
we try to pick up the meaning of small
hints from each other - when we’re
miles and miles away from one another.

Slight signals - infinitesimal signs …
hints that we’re still in this for the long
run - that this trip was worthwhile …
that we’re making the right choices.

God, I’m talking and thinking about you.
At times, I’m not so sure of you in all this.

Am I supposed to pick up a message
from corn on the cob - the grab of a
lobster - a cloud silently sliding by
or a V flock of geese heading south?

Or should I spend my time talking to
those I’m with when I get home -
instead of trying to figure out every hint 
from a distance - far, far from home?

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Monday, August 15, 2016

August 15, 2016


The bell sounds from the church
tower - there in the valley - telling
all  - there has been a death - and
the old people on the porches hear
the warning and say a prayer - and 
the young people hear nothing. 
They're dead. They haven't risen yet.
They don’t have the imagination - the
feeling - the inner scream for God yet.

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2016

Sunday, August 14, 2016



The title of my homily for this 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time [C] is, “In The Pits.”

For the sake of transparency, I’m an optimist, but today’s 1st reading from Jeremiah 38: 4-6, 8-10, and today’s gospel from Luke 12: 49-53 basically talk about being in the pits.

Today’s second reading from Hebrews 12: 1-4 tells us to start running. Run away! Rid ourselves - “of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus.”

A homily calls us to reflect upon the readings of the day….


In today’s first reading - the King, Zedekiah, crumbles in - to the princes - who want Jeremiah silenced, removed. 

The king abdicates. He tells the princes: “He is in your power.”

They took Jeremiah and threw him a  cistern.

The text says “threw”. However,  they describe it as lowering him down into the muddy hole with ropes. It had no water - only mud.

What would that be like? I picture being dropped  into a big bowl of chocolate pudding.  Uuuuuh!

How many movies have we seen where they throw someone into solitary confinement - to silence them - to shut them up?

How many Rambo and Chuck Norris movies have we seen where there are POW’s in concentration camps and Rambo or Chuck are flown and then dropped into the jungle or wilderness to rescue people who are trapped.


In today’s gospel, Jesus talks about family fights - where there is no peace - only division. “From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three; a father will be divided against a son and a son against his father, a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”

Talk about mud and mudslinging.

As I read that - I wondered about how many people hearing this reading around our world today - will actually hear it. It’s the same readings in lots of churches - not just Catholic - but we’re worked out with many Protestant Communities - to have the same readings - at least on Sunday.

How many people will get antsy and edgy and “Uh oh-ing” when they hear Jesus’ words about family divisions?  

His stuff - especially about forgiveness and putting down the rocks and loving one another - can cause division.

We’re all been part of the drama of our own family stuff. We’ve been on stage or we watched from the audience.

We all could have written Tolstoy’s well know comment in Anna Karenina, “Happy families are all alike, every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

There will be at least 1 million, 999 thousand - phone calls today or bar talk or beach chair conversations about unhappy family situations. that people are in.

It’s being in the pits.

Many people feel like King Zedekiah in today’s first reading: there are people we can do nothing about. We want to push them out of our lives and say to someone else, “He is in your power.”

We want others to solve the problem that we can’t - even if they have to throw that person down into a muddy hole - to hide them away.

So and so is drinking and drinking and drinking some more.

So and so is mouthing off - again and again and again - and they can’t let go of something someone else said or did - last week, last year - 25 years ago.


Yogi Berra - in one of his many truisms - said, “It’s déjà vu all over again!”

If life is anything, if family life is anything,  it’s repeat performances. Could you repeat after me,  “It’s déjà vu all over again!”

I’ve seen this play, this movie, this scene before, over and over and over again.

So Yogi Berra knew life when he said, ““It’s déjà vu all over again!” 

He was also right when he said, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”

He was right when he said, “I didn’t really say everything I said.”

He was right when he said, “We made too many wrong mistakes”

What to do: first step - STEP BACK!

Yogi Berra also said, “You can observe a lot by watching.”

He wasn’t just a player. He was also a manager.

It takes time and lots of watching and learning and figuring, to figure some things out about our family - and our life and how the game is played.

And remember two other things, Yogi Berra said:

“The future ain’t what it used to be.”

“If the world were perfect, it wouldn’t be.”

The world, our family, our marriage, our parish, our job, our evenings, our days, our past, our future, are never perfect.

And sometimes they are the pits.


Two years ago someone sent out thousands of those refrigerator magnetic stickers. I have one on a metal door in our second corridor at St. Mary’s.

It has a smiling picture of Pope Francis and it says, “Pope Francis says: you need 3 phrases in a family: 1) May I? 2) Thank you. and 3) I’m sorry.”

Come to think about it, Pope Francis does look a bit like Yogi Berra. That's an aside!

If you want more from Pope Francis - much more than what a refrigerator door can hold, read his 225 page exhortation: Amoris Laetitia, The Joy of Love.

If you want more of Yogi Berra's quotes simply type that into Google.


Or if you want just one word to work on - it’s “forgive”.  It’s that 3rd family message from Pope Francis: “I’m sorry.”

That second reading for today tells us to get into that Olympic “running the race” with Jesus and crowds and crowds of other people - who want to go for the gold in life.

If anyone was hoped to be silenced - like Jeremiah thrown into the muddy pit - it was Jesus - nailed to the cross - to shut him up. One of his seven last words or statements from the cross was, “Father forgive them because they don’t know what they are doing.”

You probably heard me say this before, but I’ll say it again and again, because it works and people told me that it works.

Find your rosary. Keep it handy - in your pocket or your purse. A rosary is not just for Hail Mary’s.  Every day - while driving - or just sitting there - take out your worry beads and say, 59 times - or just 10 times, “Father forgive them because they don’t know what they are doing.” “Father forgive them because they don’t know what they are doing.”

And I guarantee,  if you say that enough, if you pray that enough, you’ll say and pray that the next time you and your family or someone is in the pits.

People are dumb. They don’t know what they are doing. Forgive the jerk. It could be you - déjà vu - all over again.


Painting on top: Jeremiah in the Pit by Marc Chagall, 1931-1939.