Saturday, September 3, 2016

September 3, 2016


What a horrible nickname,
“Lump.” Unless it’s ice cream....
How could a lump be welcomed?

A lump... cancer - or a mess that 
blocks a sink - or a sewer - clumps 
of gunk - blocking us up. Ugh.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016


The title of my homily  for this 22 Friday in Ordinary Time is, “Regard.”

Spelled: R  E  G  A  R  D


It’s a word that I have never stopped to look at or think about.

I never gave it any regard.

How about you?

 I like words. I like to look up their roots - their meanings, etc. etc. etc.

And I want to keep on learning words till I get dementia - and then it’s all spaghetti inside this sound box of mine - called my mind.

Why this topic for a homily?

The word “regard”  appears in the opening statement in today’s first reading” “Brothers and sisters: “Thus should one regard us ….”

That triggered my mind to stop and think about this theme or topic of, “Regard.”


Do we care about how others see us - judge us - regard us?

How we look …  how we talk … how we eat … how we speak?

Do we look in the mirror as we dress ourselves or do our face: "How will others regard me in this outfit - or with this look?"

Did you like the TV commercial for Men’s Wearhouse. George Zimmer would talk about his suits and say, “You’re gonna like the way you look. I guarantee it.”  He was selling high regard. He said, you’ll get that if you wear one of my suits.

So I’m assuming we want to be regarded as normal - fitting in - looking okay - looking good?

What about disregard? What’s going on there?

What about people who feel disregarded - disqualified - "dissed" - because of their accent, color, religion, place of origin, look?

Do people who are a PITA - pain in the you know what - often disregard what others think - and just barge - or ram rod themselves - into a scene or  a  discussion or the planning - and want their way - regardless of what others think - and as a result - they don’t get positive regard?

So do we people want regard - negative or positive - whether we admit it or not?

So please notice the word "guard" - one who watches - in the "gard" part of the word "regard."

Those are some immediate observations and questions about the issue of, “regard.”


The word “regard” is in the English translation of today’s first reading. [Cf. 1 Corinthians 4:1-5]

It was written in STOP sign red for me.

If a word grabs me in the readings for the Mass of the day, I like to look up stuff about that word.

It it’s New Testament, it would be Greek; if it’s the Jewish Bible it would be Hebrew.

We studied Greek for 4 years - not as much as Latin - but we took Greek - especially since it’s the original language of the New Testament - so that’s sitting in my resume.  

We had Latin for 8 years - and our main philosophy and theology books were in Latin - but I always wished we zeroed in on Greek and Hebrew - more - that they had a higher regard.
As to Hebrew, we had that one class a week for two semesters. That was it. To this day, I don’t know how I passed.

With the Internet and with some good books I have, I can dabble in both Greek and Hebrew - especially when I’m preparing a homily and want to look up a word.

I have read several times - in books about preaching, “Don’t say in the pulpit, ‘In Hebrew or in Greek, the word in our text is” and then mention a Greek or Hebrew word.”

I disregard that warning or prohibition - because if we’re not aware of the Greek or Hebrew words - we can be babbling inside an empty 55 gallon drum about what’s not in the scriptures.  At the very least, I want to know the meaning of the words in the original text for the Mass scripture readings. I fail often on this - by preaching about an English translation - idea or word - and I’m missing what was in the original languages of the readings.

In today’s first reading from 1st Corinthians, “regard” was the English word chosen to translate the Greek word, LOGIZESTHO  - from the Greek verb, LOGIZOMAI.

It was the word used in everyday business in counting apples and oranges, estimating, calculating, figuring out how many tables and chairs to set up for a dinner or what have you.

When it becomes a metaphor, it means figuring out what must I do in order to be saved - in order to be right.

What do I do to get positive regard - from myself, my judgment - or others - but especially from God?

Do I really mean it, when I say to God, “Thy will be done”?

Do I really want to do each day - what God regards should be done each day?

So Paul - here in his First Letter to the Corinthians  talks about what we must do to be judged good servants. What’s required?

Then he gives what he sees as the key ingredient. It is to be trustworthy.

Then Paul talks about who the one is who makes this judgment: it’s the Lord.

So the Lord makes the judgment in the deal. God does the reckoning. God lets us know if we figured out - if we got it right - in what we should be and should be doing regarding what’s important.

Take for example,  a group of people who volunteer to serve at a dinner for others. It could be a church group or the Red Cross or what have you.  The person who gives their word and then shows up and gives it their best will get high regard as a servant.

They are proving themselves trustworthy and they get high regard from God.

The proof is in the pudding - better making it and serving it.

The Lord’s good servant gains the trust of all.

Weren’t we all moved by the moment in the movie, “A Man For All Seasons,” the life of St. Thomas More,  when he said it was not Henry VIII whom he was worried about. It was God. He wanted to be God’s good servant.


In today’s gospel, John the Baptist has high regard. [Cf. Luke 5:33-39.]

Now there was a serious guy - when it comes to prayer and fasting.

The scribes and the Pharisees see Jesus’ disciples. They don’t look as strict - so they got low regard.  Jesus gets low regard as well.

What’s the plan for getting high regard?

What’s the plan for getting high regard with God?

People want to know all the time - if they are church goers - what do I do to get high regard from God?

People who go to church - sometimes do what they do - to get high regard - recognition - “Wows!” - from other people. “Now she’s a holy person.”

Who is the holy person - the saint - the Good Christian?

Jesus laughed at this when he saw externalism and showing off in the Pharisees - in praying, in giving alms, in fasting, and said, “Amen they have had their reward.” [Cf. Matthew 6: 1-18; Matthew 23.]

I sense that people are asking all their lives the high regard question - especially when they are getting older and looking at their life.

It's the meaning of life question.

It's why Nicodemus came to Jesus in the night. Read the third chapter of John thirty times thirty times. 

It's why the rich young man came to Jesus, "What must I do to gain eternal life?" [Cf. Matthew 19: 16-22.]

Down deep they are wondering what God’s estimate - what  his LOGIZOMAI - his accounting for us is?

How does God judge us here and now?

Hey does God judge us after we die?

Is it an accounting - a reckoning - a regarding our life?

The scriptures certainly say that.

Jewish theology certainly said that - for those who believed in an afterlife.

One thought in Hebrew thinking was: it’s a scale - if you did 465 things right and 466 things wrong. Sorry.

Luke - and now Pope Francis - is saying, we will be regarded, reconciled by mercy. I’ll take that one.

Matthew sneaks in that we have to do something  - have the right garment for the wedding banquet.

Matthew 25 says we have to feed the hunger, clothe the naked, visit the sick and the imprisoned - otherwise we’re a goat  - and we’ll be told to go to hell.

Jesus tells us it’s never too late.

We can always pour as we heard in today’s gospel - new wine into new wine skins.

We can come into the vineyard in the last hour.

We can also keep our old good wine in our old wrinkled  skins and bring both the old and the new with us into the eternal wedding.


So that’s a homily about regard.

As I thought about it - I realized I have to give this theme of regard - a lot more regard - a lot more recognition - a lot more understanding. Amen.

Friday, September 2, 2016

September 2, 2016


If we’re against someone,
we’ll find plenty of faults
in that person to prove
why we’re against them.

If we don’t like someone,
we’ll spot various things
we don’t like about them and
think to ourselves, “I’m right.”

If we like someone, we’ll spot
things about them we like,
even if the person is worse than
those we’re against or don’t like.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Thursday, September 1, 2016

September 1, 2016


Prayer: to sit quietly on the shore - at the
edge of the water, - at the edge of the world -
to pause and to pray each morning - a word
of “Thanks to You, O Lord, for one
more day of precious,  knowable life.”

Prayer: to set sail - to cross the waters -
to discover Christ on the waters of life -
in traffic - as well as on the other shore -
at work - to care about those folks I interact
with each day in so many unique ways.

Prayer: to see Christ today in and working
with  others - in the odd and in the sane -
in the lonely and in the life of the party -
all those who cross my path - and those
who are not sure of what path to follow.

Prayer: to head home after the work of the
day - to find out what my family did today -
to compare notes - to laugh and to love and
to thank God for one more precious knowable
day - knowing there is another one tomorrow.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

August 31, 2016


Stone statues just standing there -
doing nothing - but posing in the rain,
in the snow, in the sun, no comparison
to the days you were here - moving
around in the midst of us - walking
in the rain, shivering in the snow -
sweating in the sun. Let’s face it:
most people don’t notice statues -
except when a bird sits on a head -
or when one is toppled by a crowd.
The shout is: so live that the crowd
is served by you - and not vice versa.

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2016

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

August 30, 2016


I am a novel.
I am a poem.
I am a love letter.
I am a request for help.
I am an “I’m sorry!” letter.
I am directions.
I am a doodle.
I am a drawing.
I am a biography.
I am an autobiography.
Then pick up a pencil!


© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016



The title of my homily for this 22nd Tuesday in Ordinary Time is, “The Mind of God.”

Today’s first reading ends with these two comments: "For 'who has known the mind of the Lord, so as to counsel him?' But we have the mind of Christ." [Cf. 1st Corinthians 2: 10-16.]

I would assume that is the dream - that is the hope of all of us - all of us looking for a deeper spiritual life - to have the mind of Christ  - and then to go deeper - deeper into the hope that Christ will bring us into the mind of God.

Now that’s prayer - union and communion - holy communion - not the babbling of words - but getting out of the boat - heading for Christ - sinking deeper and deeper into the ocean of God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit. [Cf. Matthew 14: 22-33.]


The first step then would be to follow Christ - to hear Christ in the Gospels - to picture the people who approached Christ and see who Christ is.

We wade into the gospel of Luke today  - moving out of Matthew last Saturday. Yesterday we missed the going into the synagogue in Nazareth to hear Jesus’ inaugural address in Luke - because yesterday was the feast of John the Baptist.

Luke will teach us so much more each year - the mercy of God especially in this year of mercy.  Open up the flood gates….

I loved today’s gospel for starters - that it’s the crazy guy - in the synagogue of Capernaum who first gets who Jesus is - that he shrieks in a loud voice “Leave us alone! What do you want of us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are: the Holy One of God.”

Can we be crazy enough to say to Jesus: “I know who you are: the Holy One of God.”


In today’s reading from 1st Corinthians, Paul goes another way. He is going to let the Spirit bring us to the Father - to let the Spirit bring us into God.

Come Holy Spirit!

We slipped into the 1st Letter to the Corinthians last Thursday - and we’ll have this letter of Paul till Saturday September 17th. This is one of the blessings of daily Mass - we get a chance to hear and get into lots of the holy writings.

So hopefully we want to get into God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit: the Trinity. 

Augustine tells us he discovered from a little kid on the beach - that you can’t fit and fill the ocean into a little kid’s beach pail - any more than fitting the Trinity into our little minds. Yet we go to the beach to fill our pails and wade into the ocean. We come into church - we come into prayer - to fill our pale little self and wade into the edge of God.

Jesus often tells us, See me, see the father. Hear me, hear the father.

In his words for today, Paul is sort of going a different way - here in today’s first reading.

The commentators on today’s first reading tell us that we all have a spirit - pneuma in Greek. Paul then tells us that we also have a soul - psuche in Greek. Psuche is the life principle in every living thing. We have that gift of life. We see that life in dogs and cats, birds and fish. We know the difference between a dead fly and a live one - a dead another and a live another.

He tells us we have a choice to live by the pneuma or just the psuche.

To live by the spirit is to move into the Spirit of God who will bring us


This is long enough for a weekday Mass - so if you have time read today’s readings again.

Let me conclude with Paul’s words for today I hope I didn’t complicate his message up too much.

Brothers and sisters:

The Spirit scrutinizes everything,
even the depths of God.

Among men,
who knows what’s going on within us
except our spirit that is within?

no one knows what pertains to God
except the Spirit of God.

We have not received the spirit of the world
but the Spirit who is from God,
so that we may understand the things freely given us by God.

And we speak about them
not with words taught by human wisdom,
but with words taught by the Spirit,
describing spiritual realities in spiritual terms.

Now the natural man
[that is the one who lives only with his psuche]
does not accept
what pertains to the Spirit of God,
for to him it is foolishness,
and he cannot understand it,
because it is judged spiritually.

The one who is spiritual, however,
 can judge everything
but is not subject to judgment by anyone.

For "who has known the mind of the Lord, so as to counsel him"?"

But we have the mind of Christ.

Monday, August 29, 2016


[Today we commemorate the passion or suffering or the Beheading of John the Baptist. Today’s gospel story from Mark 6: 17-29 - triggers thoughts about different characters - some courageous - some weak. Hence this reflection on courage vs. weakness.]

It takes courage to say, “You’re right. I’m wrong.”

It takes courage to say, “Help!”

It takes courage to say, “I had too much to drink.”

It takes courage to say, “I made a mistake.”

It takes courage to say, “I promised too much and I can’t deliver.”

It takes courage to say, “I sinned.”

It takes courage to say, “I’m trapped.”

It takes courage to say, “Oops. Dumb me.”

It takes courage to say, “Lust took over.”

It takes courage to say, “Please forgive me.”

It takes weakness to hold onto a grudge!

It takes weakness to remain silent, instead of screaming, “Stop.”

It takes weakness to say, “Get rid of him. Cut off his head.”

It takes weakness to say, “I’m going to get you for saying that.”

It takes weakness to say, “More wine.”

It takes weakness to say, “I’m only human – so I have to do this - otherwise I’m going to look like a fool.” 

Note: Painting on topBenozzo Gozzoli (1461-1462)
August 29, 2016


Patron saint of the so many
who have been silenced -
because they spoke up.

Thrown into a dungeon down
below while people partied
and danced up above.

He spent his time wondering
who Jesus was and would he
be silenced just like he was.

“Off with his head!” John was
silenced for good till his head came
in on a platter for one last scream.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Sunday, August 28, 2016



The title of my homily for this 22 Sunday in Ordinary Time [C] is, “Dirt.”

Last Sunday I preached on just one word, one image - “Doors” - and I found that helpful for meditation and reflection. I don’t know if anyone else did, but I did. And I noticed doors all week. Maybe this week I’ll be seeing dirt. I vacuum my room at least once a year.

When I read today’s readings,  the theme of humility jumped out at me and as we all know, the word “humility” comes from “humus” - earth, dirt.

Humility is being down to earth - basic - knowing where we come from. It means not being inflated - not being filled with oneself. That’s the image of the hot air balloon - not down to earth - but trying to fly higher and higher above everyone else.

So a homily on humility - earth - dirt - being grounded.


As you know there are two creation accounts in the first few pages of the Bible. The first creation account has God creating us - male and female - from a distance. “Let there be light….Let there be man and woman - male and female - made in our own image and likeness.” [Cf. Genesis 1:1 to 2:4.]

In the second creation account in Genesis [Genesis 2: 5ff.] - which follows the first - God - Yahweh - comes down to earth. God gets his hands dirty - in making us. In this second creation account - the one that is the older story - the more down to earth creation account - God is feeling all alone,  so God decides to make us and form us and sculpt us out of the ground, out of the earth, out of the clay, out of the mud, out of the dirt.

As we hear on Ash Wednesday - and it’s rubbed into our skulls, “Remember you are dust and into dust you shall return.”

That’s THE Ash Wednesday sermon - THE  Lent Sermon - every year - heading for Easter - the Resurrection of the Body! Eternity baby…. eternity .... the plan is to live forever.

That gives me hope - in the recent experience of two stillborn baby moments at Anne Arundel Medical Center.

Death. Life. Questions. Faith…. Why? Why? Why? Cry? Cry? Cry?

Every funeral brings us down to earth - especially if the person is our age or younger. Most Catholic funerals - whether it’s the casket or the cremains - the ashes - has sort of a cover over the reality.

Yet the reality of death - time limits - the bottom line - hits home every time.

The last Jewish funeral I was at - for a close friend of our family - Gloria Goldberger - we all got to shovel some dirt and drop it down onto the casket which had been lowered into the deep dirt cut hole in the ground.  I’ve been at some Catholic funerals when we did that as well. And in being handed the shovel we get some of that dirt on our hands - as we shovel it down into the ground.

Yet death is not a dirty little secret. We know a good bit about it - the longer we live. And faith helps…. Come Lord, Jesus.


Today’s first reading from Sirach says, “Humble yourself the more, the greater you are.”

Today’s second reading from the Letter to the Hebrews tells us that when we approach God - it’s like coming to a high mountain or a great city - Mount Zion or to the heavenly Jerusalem. It’s enormous. It’s awesome - and we are speechless in comparison.

The big can make us feel small.

Today’s gospel from Luke tells us that everyone who exalts themselves will be humbled. So when you are at a wedding banquet - sit in the back or the room. Sit at table 23. Then someone might tell you to move up front - unless everything is numbered - and sometimes that causes uppityness.

Today’s gospel has Jesus telling us, “When you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind”. When you do that, you’re not doing it for payback or to impress everyone - but to be nice to everyone.

I like to think at every mass - we are the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind - yet the priest gets the cushy chair up front - in a higher place. Talk about higher hot air balloons. You have to laugh.

And in our own way, each of us is poor, crippled, lame and blind.

We are here as Jesus’ guests at the celebration of the Mass.


Jesus was off on being humble of heart - not humble of show.

That was the Pharisees. That was the scribes - the ones who could write.

So let me present 5 secrets - 5 steps of humility. There are more. Enough already.

First: we have to learn to laugh at ourselves - and not take ourselves too seriously. To be humble - we have to have a sense of humor. Look in the mirror at least once a day and laugh at your nose or your ears or your day.

I have never forgotten the story - a bishop told us - about this very pompous archbishop in Brazil - head of the bishop’s conference. Someone put a whoopee cushion under his seat cushion and all waited till he finally sat down. And all laughed - except himself.

Two: It’s not all me. I am part of the whole world. I am part of the whole universe. I am stardust.

It’s not by accident that the second creation account in the Book of Genesis has God taking dirt, clay, mud, mother earth and forming us. Then God breathed his SPIRIT - RUAH -  LIFE - into us. That’s moving from humiliation to exaltation.

We are the seed and egg of our mom and dad. We are our mom’s body and blood. We were in holy communion with her for months. We are what she ate. What she ate and drank came from the earth.  We are broccoli and beef.  The food from the earth we came from - each time we eat - are microbes, atoms, particles from tree leaves, a disintegrated king’s underwear from 1000 years ago - as well as a weasel that was grabbed by a hawk and on and on and on. That should keep us humble as well as amazed.

If you use Google, type into the search engine, “What are we made of?”

Surprise: we are stardust. We are part of the big planet explosions of billions and billions and millions of years ago. Have you ever read what’s on the side of the package of a loaf of bread or a box of Cheerios?  We are iron and a whole bunch of stuff. The microscopes they will have 100 years from now will tell how much of us is nickel, gold, uranium, and krypton. Eat your heart out Superman or Superwoman. Our cells are replacing themselves all the time.  Listen carefully.  We lose 30,000 cells every minute - and a lot more. Drip. Drip. Drip. Drop. Drop. Drop.

I read on Google that 93% of the mass in our body is stardust. We are talking about humility here. But how about that for being exalted?

Three: Be oneself and not try to be who we are not.  Comparisons can crush us. The advertising industry thrives on this issue. I love the saying: “Be who you is, because if you be who you ain’t, then you ain’t who you is.”

I have discovered that some people are unhappy about aspects of themselves. I have discovered some people are envious of those with better looks and shape - cars and cash. I have discovered people know people they don’t want to be or be like. I have yet to discover someone who really wants to be someone else.  I think we know down deep: this is me for better for worse, for richer for poorer, till death do I fall apart.

Fourth: Be it ever so humble, there is no place like home. We need family, home, friends, who know us - who don’t let us get away with being a phony. I’m not married, but I’m assuming marriage, the dining room table, coffee cups left in the living room, nakedness - real nakedness - is when another knows who we are and they still accept us and love us and laugh with and at us - and at our love handles.

Fifth: The fifth key to humility is acceptance of all this.  Acceptance is a key concept in the serenity prayer. Acceptance is a key to happiness - as well as humility. There are things we can change and there are things we can’t change. And we need to have the wisdom to know the difference.

Wrinkles, a bad back, a slip on a banana skin, dandruff, aging, dripping, drooping, traffic jams, enjoying ice cream and spilling some on our shirt and laughing and licking it after trying to lift it off our shirt with our index finger - are all part of life - from 4 to 40, from 8 to 80 - and on and on and on.

Visit nursing homes. Talk to young people and old people and all those in between. Accept life’s realities. Listen and learn - and accept.

Pause while going by churches and cemeteries - and make the sign of the cross - and laugh.


John Seldon (1584-1654) - long dead - wrote, “Humility is a virtue all preach, none practice; and yet everybody is content to hear.”


Patron saint of hesitation….
Patron saint of putting off chastity….
Patron saint of being late in loving God….
Patron saint of journal keeping….
Patron saint of Confessions….
Patron saint of trying the different….
Patron saint of being and becoming honest….
Patron saint of reading, "Tolle et lege”….
Patron saint of long prayers - a whole book….
Patron saint of honestly….
Patron saint of those in love with loving….
Patron saint of “Hear the other side.”
Patron saint of trying to grasp the Trinity….
Patron saint of trying to see the City of God….
Patron saint of admitting to having dark corners in the mind….
Patron saint of beauty - especially within ….
Patron saint of, “Love and do what you want.”
Patron saint of, “Believe in order to understand.”
Patron saint of, “the desire in prayer is the prayer”….

© Andy Costello  Reflections

Statue on top: St. Augustine in 
Monastery in Pavia, Italy
Saying on plaque, "Lord our hearts
are restless till they rest in you."
August 28, 2016


You mean to tell me, you haven’t
read Augustine’s Confessions yet?
“Tolle lege, tolle lege….” those
were the sing song words he heard
in the garden that day. “Take! Read!”

So he picked up and read, Paul’s
Letter to the Romans 13:13-14:
“Let us conduct ourselves properly,
as people who live in the light of day -
no orgies or drunkenness,
no immorality or indecency,
no fighting or jealousy.
But put on the Lord Jesus Christ
and make no provision to satisfy
the desires of the flesh.”

“Tolle lege” Augustine’s Confessions
and like everyone who reads them,
you too will say, “Too late I loved you,
O Beauty ever ancient and ever new.
Too late I loved you! And, behold,
you were within me, and I out of
myself and there I searched for you.”

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016