Saturday, November 19, 2016

November 19, 2016


It’s nothing - doing nothing - just
sitting there in a calm - in an emptiness -
not having to start or finish anything -
till peace sneaks in - till laughter -
till tears - till light and love or the
Divine Darkness of God comes and sits
with us in the nothingness of not trying
to meditate - just letting go and
letting God be under and in everything -
till we rest in the Lord - knowing
we are not the Lord. God Is.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Friday, November 18, 2016

NOVEMBER 18, 2016


Jesus , I've seen you on 100 crucifixes
and in a 100 broken persons, but Jesus,
I need to get away from these Good Friday moments. I need you to backtrack and 
see me up a tree like Zacchaeus and 
call me to come down - so we can sit down 
and have a good meal and a good talk 
together - and then plan a future together.

                                                                                                              © Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Thursday, November 17, 2016

November 17, 2016


Jesus walked down our streets,
stepped up our steps, stopped into
our stores and bars, slipped through
our alleys - took our trains, planes,
and buses and saw all the people he
spotted the last time he made this trip.

But this time he scratched his head.
This time something was different.
Martha and Mary were not talking and
Mary was not complaining. They were
alienated  from each other …. and didn’t
seem to feel that Lazarus had died….

And the father didn’t run to hug his lost son ….
nor did he walk out into the field to talk with
his older son who was working, working, all
by himself. The blind man didn’t cry out that
he wanted to see …. The lady on the sidewalk
didn’t reach out to touch the edge of his cloak.

The thief on the cross didn’t talk to the other
thief on his cross. They just hung there as if someone was missing. For Jesus it felt like Birmingham [1] - not Calvary - but it was worse.
Everyone was silent - looking at their phones -looking all alone. Jesus didn’t know what to do.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016


[1] Poem by Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy, "Indifference" or "When Jesus Came to Birmingham."


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

November 16, 2016


We do have a choice,
well sometimes, well,
most of the time … the
more we get the knack
of responding instead
of reacting to others.

It can be in traffic. It can be
in a conversation or a conflict.
Tell me the key? It’s time.
Taking the time to reflect,
to refigure - but especially to
walk, walk, before talk, talk.  


© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Tuesday, November 15, 2016



The title of my homily for this 33rd  Tuesday in  Ordinary Time is, “Behold I Stand at the Door and Knock.”


In today’s first reading from the Book of Revelation we have a very well-known Biblical text, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.” [Rev. 3:20]

I would think we have heard that text and sermons on that text enough that it has become a part of our spiritual life.

It knocks on our door!

And every time we have a sermon or a homily on this text from Revelation the preacher always brings in the story of Holman Hunt’s famous painting, “The Light of the World.”

We know the story - we’ve heard it in a hundred sermons. We know the key message,  “The knob is on the inside.”

The message of that painting and that text is that it’s our move.

Christ wants in - but do we want him in?


And it doesn’t always happen on weekday readings that the first reading fits in perfectly with the gospel, but today it does. [Cf. Luke 19: 1-10.]

Jesus invites himself into Zacchaeus’ house and Zacchaeus invites Jesus into his life.

We know these stories and we know them well.

What a great way to begin personal prayer  - whether here in church or in our  Eucharistic chapel down below - or while sitting on our back porch  - or in a special prayer chair - that we have in some quiet part of our house.  To just pause, breathe, be, and before doing anything else, to hear Jesus knocking on our door - on our mind - on our heart.

Knock! Knock! Knock!

“Behold I stand at the door and knock.”

What a great opening prayer to a time of prayer, “Come Lord Jesus. Come Lord Jesus.  Come on in, Lord Jesus.  Come on in.”


The painting is entitled, “The Light of the World.”

In the painting we only see Jesus. He is standing there with lantern in hand and it’s well lit. And his face and his garments radiate light.

In the painting we see the weeds and ivy all over the door area - as if the door hasn’t been open for years.

Holman started the painting when he was 22 and didn’t finish it till he was 29. It wasn’t till 50 years later that he explained the painting. The door is the closed mind. I thought the meaning was very obvious - because maybe I heard sermons on this many, many times. However,  maybe not everybody gets it - if their minds are closed to Jesus and closed to hearing an explanation.

The painting was started at night. Somewhere along the line, Holman Hunt said he went to Bethlehem to see the light there - to make sure he had it right.

There are 3 versions of this painting. The first and best is in Keble Chapel in Oxford. He wasn’t happy with how they had it set up, so he did a larger and second version - and this hangs in St Paul’s church London - where Hunt is buried.  It’s not as good. A third smaller version is in Manchester.

I would think, unless you saw the painting in person, it doesn’t make much difference because there are so many copies of this painting all around the world - on many walls, in many books and movies and what have you.

Last night as I was doing some research on the painting, I noticed that it went on a worldwide tour between 1905 to 1907. It’s said that 4/5 of the population of Australia saw it.

We get that. We’ve all seen the painting somewhere along the line.


The title of my homily is, “Behold I Stand at the Door and Knock.

Surprise! Even if we keep the door locked, even if the knob is on the inside, Jesus comes through walls. [Cf. John 20: 19-23]
November 15, 2016


As basic as being nice….
As basic as rye bread and cold butter….
As basic as loving one another....
As basic as holding the door for the next person….
As basic as giving a phone number on an answering machine slowly and then repeating it slowly ….
As basic as giving a subway seat to an older person especially with packages ….
As basic as saying, “Nice moon tonight, God….”
As basic as using one’s car signal ….
As basic as not slamming doors  - especially when others are napping ….
As basic as taking grandkids out for ice cream - often ….
As basic as leaving a public restroom neater than when one used it ….
As basic as listening….
As basic as saying, “Thank you!”

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Monday, November 14, 2016

November 14, 2016


Sometimes I feel like a big clumsy dark boat,
with straining - pulling - stretching ropes -
anchoring me to an old tar - oil stained dock,
and the water below - tide shifting - churning -
turning me this way and that - but I’ll take this,
as well as setting out to sea once again - than
to be an abandoned - no longer used  boat -
just sitting there remembering lots of what was.  

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016



The title of my homily for this 33 Monday in Ordinary time is, “Secret Revelations.”


Today’s first reading is from the opening words of the Book of Revelation and then it jumps to the 2nd chapter of the Book of Revelation.

We are going to cover the rest of the Book of Revelation for the next and last 2 weeks of the Church Year’s weekday readings.

So I thought I’d say a little about the Book of Revelation - under the theme of Secret Revelations.

The alternative year’s readings are Maccabees and the Book of Daniel.

A question: have you ever studied the Book of Revelation with a commentary in book form, or tapes or a Bible Study Group?  It would be well worth it.

It’s dated from around the year 90 - written sometime during the reign of Emperor Domitian - whose dates are 81 to 96 AD.

It’s filled with visions, drama, song, apocalyptic language and images.

If it was on stage, we would see the Lamb, armies marching, people breaking open the seals of secret documents, trumpets, roaring dragons, lions, beasts and bowls, angels, clouds, the river of life, a new heaven and a new earth.

The main stress - the main image - of the book is Jesus Christ - the Lamb of God - who saves us and is our hope of salvation.

And because the church is going through tough times - like persecutions the language in the Book of Revelation is code language at times.

That’s why a guide would be helpful. Moreover there has been a lot of research on the type of literature we have here - and it’s often connected to the Book of Daniel - which was written also in dangerous times.

Scott Hahn was some wonderful insights on the Book of Revelation connecting it loud and clear with the Mass.


For a thought for the day besides this quick introduction to the Book of Revelation which begins today, I would like to say a few words about the phenomenon of secret writings and secret revelations.

The history of Christianity has had a lot of visionaries down through history who put their visions into written form.

From what I pick up - visionaries catch the attention of those who feel they are in the dark - they don’t know - and they would like to be in on the secret.

The Early Church has had various groups - who end up being called, “Gnostics.”

They are in the know - and often they are declared to be heretics.

When it comes to religion, we’ll meet many people, who want to have an edge. They want to be safe. They want eternal life on the other side of the unseen side of death.

Secrets sell. Secrets sell books. Secrets make money. Before I came to Annapolis - which has it’s set geographical boundaries - I was on the road  - all over Ohio and lots of other places. I also was in 3 retreat houses - for 22 years of my life - where people came from all kinds of places. So I have had varied experiences of  people from lots of places - who have told me that they have read a book by a visionary.

I’ve checked some of them out.

Most of the time I have kept my mouth shut - following the Gamaliel principal: - if this is of God, it will last, if this is nonsense, it will end up on some book shelf gathering dust. [Cf. Acts of the Apostles 5: 38-39.]

Rome rarely gives its approval of visionries - some of whom I consider crazy. Visionaries talk about the end of the world is coming. Some talk about Mary being God. Others talk about St. Joseph being the Holy Spirit.

For example, the visionary of Bayside, Long Island, Veronica Lucken  made statements about Paul VI being an imposter and lots of other strange comments - so called “Secret Revelations.”

These books sell.

And if someone said there is a visionary in Virginia or Ocean City, I guarantee there will be traffic jams.


I don’t want to say much more - other than saying, “Why wouldn’t people concentrate on the gospels - like today’s gospel and pray with the Blind Man - I want to see - like seeing our neighbor in need or a person who could use a “hello” and a “compliment.”

Instead of reading stuff that often is complaints and fuzzy theology and spirituality, read with the gospels - and if you have a good guide, go for the Book of Revelation.


Sunday, November 13, 2016



The title of my homily for this 33 Sunday in Ordinary Time is, “Bare Ruin’d Choirs.”

Those are 3 words and an image - a metaphor - from Sonnet 73 by William Shakespeare.

Here are the opening 4 lines of that sonnet:

That time of year thou may'st in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold;
Bare ruin'd choirs where late the sweet birds sang.

For some reason those words - "Bare ruin'd choirs"  hit me - or I heard them - when I read today’s readings. 

Right now the leaves are falling - falling - falling from the trees.  The cold is coming.

I saw two little kids this morning marching across a lawn. They were shuffling and making noise by kicking up the brown leaves on the ground and I was wondering what they were thinking and wondering about or feeling as they were doing this.

Change - things are changing.  The days are getting shorter - and Day Lights Saving Time in gone - and it’s darker in the afternoon.

How does all this affect us?

It's November - the month we traditionally think of our dead - visit cemeteries - and pray and honor our dead.

Today’s readings are end of the church year type readings that we hear every year at this time in November and they can sound kind of pessimistic and rather uh ohish.


Today’s gospel begins, “While some people were speaking about how the temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings Jesus said, 'All that you see here - the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not  be thrown down.'”

Reading that - picturing that - it triggered the human experience of how we feel when we see ruin - mess - disaster - a flood in Ellicott City - the continuing destruction in Aleppo and Mosul -  burnt down homes in the hills of California - a car wreck - even of a Lexus.

Ruin - wrecks - disasters trigger feelings - like being in a restaurant - and the waitress or waiter or server  is walking towards a table and a whole tray filled with 5 meals slips and crashes and hits the floor and silence bounces off the walls of the restaurant.

“Oh no!” “Uh oh!”

There are two types of people: those who feel for the waitress or waiter or server who experienced the crash and what they must be feeling at that moment - and the person at the table who says inwardly, “Oh no, another 17 minute wait.”

Ruined chapel at Holyrood House Palace.

Shakespeare must have seen a deserted church - a ruined chapel - without a roof. Only the bare walls remained. Weeds and trees and ivy crawled up and down the broken walls. And the monks who sang prayers there are long gone. Only birds on the branches or on walls can be heard at times.

Henry VIII and his people had looted and ransacked many a monastery.

The time was autumn - and if one reads all 154 sonnets of Shakespeare, one often hears his anxiety about aging - and the coming of one's fall - death. In his day, old age was much younger than today’s attitudes on what is old. His 36 to 40 is today’s 66 to 76 - or more.

He worried a lot about wrinkles and aging - aches and pains - the slow dying of the body as well as the death of buildings.

And I would add: In his sonnets we hear a lot about the fragility of relationships - how they can fail and crush one half of that relationship.


Spirituality - and religion - and faith deal with worries and loss and aging - and how we deal with the changes of life.

How does the waiter or server deal with slipped and crashing trays?

How does the person dealing with waiting for his or her supper deal with slow and slippage and chewy roast beef - with gristle - or a hamburger that doesn't taste like the image of the great hamburger on its way as it’s pictured in one’s mind?

How do we deal with other drivers on the highways of life?

How do we deal with being dropped or divorced or dissed?

How do we deal with parents who don’t understand and kids who won’t go to church - or a brother or sister who won’t help with taking care of mom and dad who need help with depends and getting them to the doctor.

We come to church to think and pray about life.

We take walks from time to time to think and pray about life.

We listen to Jesus to hear his take on what’s really valuable about life.

It’s all about service. I like the word "love" - but I think two other words ending with "ve" - have more impact. Those words are "give" and "serve".

It’s all about waiting and receiving with joy the love of one another.

It’s about Thanksgiving which is coming up.

It’s about how we see.


When I see kids making and playing with soap bubbles - big amazing ones that have a rainbow on them and they burst - does a kid learn a life lesson from that?

How about building sand castles at the beach and it’s almost finished and the tide has changed and it wipes out our castle? Do we learn anything from that?

How about a kid dropping his or her ice cream on tiny stones in an ice cream stand parking lot. Add to that a parent saying, "That's it! You weren’t careful?” Do they learn anything from that moment and that correction?

How about the death of a favorite grandmother?

How about playing with pick up sticks and a kid just can’t get the hang of it?

How about playing Monopoly or rummy or checkers and I lose every time?

As Dabo Swinney said last night after Clemson’s loss to Pittsburgh,  “There’s a lot more learning in a loss than a victory. Every time....”


Church is a learning center.

Church is a vision center.

Choirs are still singing in this church.

I had 3 masses this weekend at Our Lady of the Chesapeake in Pasadena and the cantor sang this neat song - and from my seat in the sanctuary I was looking out and it seemed like every person in the church was singing along - the refrain. It was a love song about how God loves us.

And a lot of people had their eyes closed and a smile on their face.

I was moved.

So I hope that singing and worshiping here moves all of us.

I hope by coming into church tonight a smile arrives and lasts on your face all week.

And I studied those faces and asked myself, “Why are you here today? What are you looking for? What do you need?”

The answer came loud and clear.

I need you Lord.

I need you to be with me this evening and this week.

Lord sometimes I feel like a bare ruin'd choir. The song is out of me. My faith has disappeared.


Garry Wills in the 1970’s wrote a whole book called, “Bare Ruin’d Choirs” and it was about his disappointment with our church.

That’s what he said the Catholic Church had done to him.

Bummer. I pray for comebacks.

I feel deeply about those who left - family members - etc. etc. etc.

I pray that your church - this church - your inner holy place has a room and it’s a holy place because Christ is within you.


Let me close with a powerful memory and moment I had and it has to do with a chapel.

I worked for 7 years at St. Alphonsus Retreat House in Tobyhanna, Pennsylvania. It was mainly a men’s retreat house - modeled on the famous Malvern Retreat house outside of Philadelphia.

On Saturday night each man on the retreat had 15 minutes of so in prayer alone - in front of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament on the Altar in the Monstrance.

The chapel was dark - except for candles and Christ on the altar.

After putting Christ in the Blessed Sacrament on the altar, I went into the sacristy behind the altar. 

I wasn't thinking. I stopped to figure something out in the sacristy and didn't get moving.  In other words I was slow and forgot someone would be all alone in the chapel.

So I came out of the sacristy and was about to walk down the main aisle of the small chapel when I stepped on top of the body of a man who was laying on the floor face down. So instead of kneeling on the kneeler before the altar, he was laying on the floor  before the altar.

I tripped - caught myself - I was much younger - and was able to right myself by grabbing onto the front bench.

The guy said, “Ooops sorry.”

I said the same thing and left.

The next morning Leonard, this 6 foot 4 bruiser of a man came up to me and said, I’m sorry about last night.”

I said, “No problem." 

Then I asked, "But what were you doing on the floor.?

"Oh," he said, "that’s how I pray when I’m here all alone in the chapel."

He continued, "I’m a plumber and a few years back we were digging this big hole to fix a pipe and we didn’t use a caisson. Big mistake. My son was down the hole and the whole sides caved in and he was buried.

"I screamed to Jesus Christ for help as we all grabbed shovels and started digging digging and my shovel hit my son right in the head - and we got him out - okay.

"So when I’m kneeling there in prayer, that’s my savior who saved my son."

That chapel for Leonard was no bare ruin'd choir.
November 13, 2016

Sometimes we hear sounds coming
from other rooms - from down the hall -
from upstairs, downstairs, out on the
street  - and we don’t even notice the
person right next to us. What sounds
are moving around in your heart today?
Oh, sorry, that’s funny, I didn’t know
you’re usually somewhere else too.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016