Saturday, November 12, 2016

November 12, 2016


At some point in everyone’s life
do we realize, I'm doing too many
encores - same old same olds -
too many repeat performances?

Why are we doing déjà vu  - over and
over and over again? Why can't we do
new scripts, new plays, originals, and
the curtain opens to a new Act One?

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Thursday, November 10, 2016

November 11, 2016


“You know, you need, a hiding place?”

Someone said that to me - way back.

Then they asked, “Where’s yours?”

“Walking…. Taking a good walk by
myself. That always works.”

“Good. Glad that helps ….”

So I asked back, “Where’s yours?”

“Oh, I have this neat back porch!”

“Or sometimes I use this chair in the cellar.”

“And, sometimes, I love to drop into an
empty afternoon church. Just to hide there
behind a pole - sort of like Jesus slipping
away from the boys and heading for
the mountains or this garden he knew of.”

I answered, “Hey, want to take a walk?”

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016
November 10, 2016


A cup of tea in the afternoon or
the early evening demands talk and
at least another - to share the day.

Okay, some prefer wine or a beer
 - to cheer and loosen up the tongue,
so as to make our day make sense.

A cup of tea, a shot, a beer, wine,
whatever - and add chips or bread
and butter - could life be any better?

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

November 9, 2016


“Hmm!” - sometimes we hear that
slight sound from someone who
feels like we’ve stuck them in a corner.

“Hmm!” - is a prompt - a hint - a nudge
from another - to notice - to listen - to find
out who another is - and what they want.

“Hmm!” - can be a cue - a clue - from
God to us - a coaxing - a grace - to
notice God is in our corner. “Hmm!”

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

November 8, 2016


I’m wearing that sticker
that says, “I voted!” But….

But I want to wear a
sticker that says, “Finally!”

And another that says,
“Please…. Never again!”

And another that says, “Will
things ever be the same again?”

Another that says, “Enough with
the money and the negatives.”

And one last one, “Leave God out
of this - unless you really mean it.”

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016



The title of my homily for this 32nd Tuesday in Ordinary Time is, “Control.”

In the English translation of today’s Letter of Paul to Titus, the word “control” is used 4 times. [Cf. Letter if Paul to Titus 2:1-8, 11-14.]

Older men should be self-controlled….

Older women should be training younger women to love their husbands and children to have self-control  - as well as to be under the control of their husbands.

Any reaction to that comment?

And younger men need to be urged to control themselves.

I would add that the word “control” is a button word for many.

And for some - once a button is pushed - things can be out of our control. We’ve seen that in TV sit-coms going back beyond I Love Lucy.

So last night as I read today’s readings to come up with a homily, I asked myself, “What does one say about control - controlling self  - controlling family members - as Paul urges in today’s first reading - and controlling servants as today’s gospel puts it. [Cf. also Luke 17: 7-10.]


So for the sake of some semblance of thinking about this, here are five personal comments about control. There are many others. It’s out of my control to get it all - and many other nuances about the issue of control.

Control - to say the least - has to be one of the top ten issues in life that we all have to wrestle with.  It shows up in relationships - marriage - government - raising kids - how things flow - and how things go with each other.

First, there are things within our control.

We have the power of choice in lots of things: to floss or not to floss - to empty the dish washer or not to empty the dishwasher? Like standing there on line at McDonald's, we have the choice to pick Meal # 1 or Meal # 3 - that is, if we’re not a kid and an adult is not giving us orders. So sometimes we have the power of choice. Sometimes the ball is in our hands and we can shoot for the basket. If we miss - and miss too many shots, the coach can bench us. But for a moment there, it was all us - our freedom - our move - our shot. We’re in control. We have the ball. We think we’re on the ball. Shoot.

Secondly, there are things that are out of our control.

For example, the weather. For example, others. We’re stuck with the preacher we’re getting  - yakking away in the pulpit - if we come to Mass. We’re stuck with the parents we got. As of right now, we have the neighbor we have next door to us. He  likes to mow his lawn at 10 PM and we put our kid to bed at 9:30 PM. That was in Dear Abby two days ago and she died a few years ago - and she’s still in control of her column.

Thirdly, God is in charge of a lot of things beyond our control.

When we pray the Our Father,  we could change the word “will” to “control” and say the Our Father this way, “Thy control  be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” We could work on letting go of trying to be in control and let God take over.  There are jokes about this. Sometimes we have to let God be God - others be others - and learn to bend and be humble.

Fourthly, we human beings have free will.

When it comes to God, there are things that are out of God’s hands - like free will. God gave us freedom. That’s what is being said very primitively - while at the same time - very clearly - in the Adam and Eve story in the Book of Genesis.  If it wasn’t this way, then love wouldn’t be love - because the beauty of love is that the other doesn’t have to love us - or choose us - but when they do - and we get it - life can become wonderful.

Fifthly: when it comes to control - especially self-control - we humans are really not in control at times.

We all need to realize that when it comes to being in control, often we’re not. We need to discover what everyone needs to learn. Sometimes we’re the problem. We self-destruct.  Self-control can be very slippery and sneaky.

This was one of the great learnings of St. Paul.  I tell myself I am going to do this and I do the opposite. [Cf. Romans 7: 14-24.]

Augustine said the same thing. I tell my right hand to do this and my left hand does the opposite.

In other words, we’ve discovered the reality of being powerless - out of control - in the midst and mix and mystery of life. 

Every person who has gone on a diet - and is grabbing that extra dough nut - knows this. Every person who gets addicted to booze, drugs, cigarettes, porn, chocolate, knows the reality of weakness.

So the most basic prayer is, “Help!” And sometimes, that’s the hardest prayer to make. We need others. We need God. We need groups, therapists, humility.


As Paul put It paradoxically, “It’s when I’m weak, I’m strong, It’s then I can enter - receive - get out of my bench - walk down the aisle and enter into communion with Christ - and community. [Cf. 2 Corinthians 12:10.]

Monday, November 7, 2016



The title of my homily for this 32 Monday in Ordinary Time is, “Good Example, Bad Example, Which Has The Greater Impact?”


Today’s readings challenge us to give good example to each other.

Today’s first reading talks about good qualities for a bishop as well as bad characteristics to avoid. [Cf. Letter of Saint Paul to Titus 1:1-9.]

I’ve never received a form in the mail to fill out about someone being considered for becoming a bishop. For someone for a job or to be fit to adopt a child, yes. Bishop no.

Paul tells Titus what to look for in presbyters for every town - that they be blameless, married only once, and with believing children who have a good track record. For bishops they too should be blameless, not arrogant, not irritable, not a drunkard, not aggressive, not greedy for sordid gain, but hospitable, a lover of goodness, temperate, just, holy and self-controlled, holding fast to the true message as taught so that he will be able to exhort with sound doctrine and to refute opponents.”

Today’s gospel has a very scary comment - that it would be better for someone to have a millstone put around their neck and thrown into the sea than to cause a little one to sin. I was in Israel once and saw a few millstones leaning against buildings.  I got the message. [Cf. Luke 17: 1-6.]

That’s one bible text that everyone should hear - especially popes and bishops and priests. I’ve heard it these past 30 years many, many times in looking at the sexual abuse problems in the Catholic Church.

Unfortunately, I sense that lawsuits - and money - had the bigger impact - than the warning words of Jesus - but especially the care of children.


The title of my homily is, “Good Example, Bad Example, Which Has The Greater Impact?”

If you were sent a survey, how would you answer that question. If the survey said: “Give examples.” What would you give as your answer?

Whenever I see a baby with a great smile, I always give credit for starters to the baby’s parents. Smiles beget smiles. Smiles carve smiles in another’s face.

Should I also add, scowls?  However, I prefer to think good example has the greater impact.

Which has the greatest impact from the pulpit? Negative or positive comments?

I remember hearing a talk by Ralph Greenson, a psychoanalyst. He said, “If someone says, 'Jack Jones is a great guy,' nobody hardly notices that, but if they  say, ' Jack Jones is a son of a ____' everyone joins in to prove it.”

Someone said, “A good example  is worth a thousand sermons.”

Every preacher has heard at least a thousand times the silent scream from the church benches, “Practice what you preach!”


We are living proofs of the power of example.

We do a lot of what we do - because of what we saw - and what was done to us.

And we are repeat performances of our parents and their parents and their parents.

A closing for example, example, about the past showing up in our present.

A marine sergeant sweetly addressed his marines at the end of an exhaustive period of drill, “When I was a little child, I had a set of wooden soldiers.  There was a poor boy in our neighborhood. Well, after I had  been to church and heard a great sermon about being generous, I was soft enough to give my wooden soldiers to him. Then I wanted them back and I cried. My mother said, ‘Don’t cry Johnny; some day you’ll get your wooded soldiers back.’  And believe me, you lop-sided, mutton-headed, wooden- brained set of certified rolling pins, that day has come.”
November 7, 2016


What hurts?
Your face - your front page -
has the headline, "I'm hurting! I'm in pain….”

What hurts?
A wrong word - arthritis - an empty chair -
an empty bed - a disappointment - a gone?

What heals?
A listening - time - another - Oh my God! - 
a willingness to - to try - to heal - to be again….

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Sunday, November 6, 2016



The title of my homily for this 32 Sunday in Ordinary Time [C]  is, “Three Major Questions.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m going to enjoy this homily.

Why not?

“Three Major Questions?”


What are our 3 major questions? 

Questions we’re asking all the time?

Or big questions that scare us or intrigue us or pop up from time to time - big time - at different times - like before operations - or at funerals - or when we’re all alone at the beach or in an airplane - 30,000 feet in the sky?

The Rabbi was asked, “You’re always asking questions. Why?”

And the Rabbi answered, “Why not?”

Who invented the question mark?

It’s a great sculpture.

It has that hook in it - that fish hook shape in it - that’s meant to catch the other.

Will you marry me?

Can we talk?

Why did you do that?


A lady asked me on Friday, “What’s the difference between a sermon and a homily?”

I said, “Good question.”

That gets the person who is asked a question, a little bit of time to think.

Or people respond by saying, “Now that’s a very good question.”

Public people are asked questions all the time - so too parents by little kids.

And sometimes they answer the question. Sometimes they give answers that satisfy the questioner. Sometimes they avoid the question completely.

I often think a person who is asked a question should say at times - like the Rabbi,  “Why are you asking that question?”  Or “What are you wondering about?” Or, ‘Where’s that coming from?”

Or to do - what I heard Nelson Rockefeller do - in a Power Breakfast on Drug Abuse in New York City, years and years ago, for some 5000 people. - In the Q and A period, someone asked Nelson Rockefeller, the governor of New York State, at the time, a question.  And he answered, “Are you crazy? I wouldn’t answer that. Next question?”

Ever since I heard that, I’ve used that trick or comment with some twists and turns in Q. and A. - question and answer periods ever since. I’ve said things like, “I don’t care to answer that right now,” Or, “That could be a tricky question. It could cause uproar.” Or “I haven’t thought about that enough yet. Next question.” Or, “I’m wondering if you’re really asking that question.”  Or sometimes - with nervousness I might ask back, “Are you asking what you’re asking or are you asking something else?”

So the lady yesterday asked me the difference between a sermon and a homily.

I said, “Sometimes they mean the same thing. They are interchangeable. Or a sermon can be a religious talk in church - but a homily is more about the scripture readings for the day - at Mass - or what have you.”


So this is a homily because today’s readings triggered this question about questions.  

Today’s first reading brings up two major questions.

First question: Is there anything we would die for?

These 7 brothers with their mother were arrested and tortured with whips and scourges by the king, to force them to eat pork in violation of God’s law.

I don’t know about you, but I think I’d eat the ham sandwich or pulled pork at Adam’s Ribs.

But if someone told me to beat someone’s mother on her sons, I would say, “No!”  even if it meant death. At least I hope I would.

If someone grabbed the Christ in the Eucharist from the tabernacle or the altar and with gun in hand asked me to jump on Christ, I hope I would say, “No! I’ll die for that.” 

Easier said than done.

And part of my answer is connected to the second question in today’s first reading, “Do I believe in the resurrection of the dead.”

That makes a difference in the question: what am I willing to die for?

I believe that there is more than this - but is that the reason I would die for Christ’s sale - because I know there is life after this life?

If I was a secret service agent, would I take a bullet for the president or a visiting prime minister or the pope, if that was my assignment?


Today’s gospel has this funny story - about the woman  who  buried 7 brothers. It was a story that made the rounds in Jesus’ time as a way of making fun of those who believed in resurrection from the dead.

I’ve done lots of second and some third marriages of those who have lost their spouses - and at most of these weddings - there are fun comments about the spouse who had died - at the time of the new marriage.

There was thunder and lightning on the day my sister-in-law’s married Ron - both of whose spouses had died of cancer.


The title of my homily is, “Three Major Questions.”

I would think this question about resurrection from the dead is one of everyone’s three major questions.

Maybe yes? Maybe no?

What would be the other two - or three - if that’s not one of your three major questions?

This coming week - talk to each other  - after Tuesday - okay - make that Wednesday - what are your three major questions.

When we were studying existential philosophy in our first year after college - in the major seminary - I remember Father Joseph Colleran - who spent his last years in Annapolis - putting up on the black board two words - as he said, “This is the world’s shortest poem. It sums up existential philosophy in 2 words and 2 lines, and they rhyme.”

He wrote on the board: 

For some reason I have never forgotten that and I have used that in sermons and talks and some homilies  ever since.

It’s the 6th question of the old Baltimore Catechism: “Why did God make you?”A. God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him for ever in heaven.”

I think it’s one of three major questions everyone asks themselves all the time.  “I / Why?”

And my third question is also two words and they also rhyme and I want to claim fame for writing  this other 2 word,  2 line poem, the second shortest poem ever written: 

It’s the question parents ask of their teenage kids - in loud - and out loud. It’s the question spouses ask of spouses - most of the time silently. It’s the question I’ve been asking and talking to my sister Mary, we’re the last two left, about our dad - and also our mom. Both are well dead - and a lot of their inner stuff is buried with them.  Both were quite quiet.

That  wondering about them - to me - is one more proof of resurrection.

I remember Father Bernard Bassett, a Jesuit saying on the Johnny Carson show one night  - something like this - in answer to a question about what’s he going to do when he gets to heaven. He said, “I’m going right by Jesus Christ and heading for my parents. I have questions. Lots of questions. I have the rest of eternity to be with God.


The title of my homily is, “Three Major Questions.”

That’s your homework - and if you’re alive - please do Q and A with each other. 
November 6, 2016


While washing potatoes in clear
sink water, something happened.
She had never really looked at a
potato like this in her entire life.

Why brown? Why this look? Why
potatoes? Why me? Why you?
Why our color? When and why do
we ever really look at each other?

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016