Saturday, December 3, 2016



The theme I would like to preach on today is: “Vocation.”

It's a loud, clear message in today's gospel for this 1st Saturday in Advent. [Cf. Matthew 9:35 to 10: 1, 5a, 6-8.]

The Lord is calling everyone to something unique. The word “vocation” simple means a calling.

The response to a calling, to a vocation, to God speaking to us is:  “Here I Am Lord. Send me.”

Here I am, Lord. Send me.


A sub-title or a principle that I will stress in this homily is a basic theological and human life principle. It’s this: Perspiration more than inspiration.

“It’s perspiration more than inspiration.”

It would be nice if homilies just came, but they don’t most of the time.

You got to sweat to get them.

You have to get up early to prepare for them.

They are work.

“It’s perspiration more than inspiration!”

This principle is not my principle. It’s Michaelangelo’s and Edison’s and a whole lot of other people’s principle.

So the theme of this homily is, “Vocation: Here I Am, Lord. Send Me.”


A little known holy priest, now called Blessed Peter Donders, started off as a diocesan priest who then became a Redemptorist. I read his life and found him to be a very inviting person.  I once wrote a short life of him. He was a giver.

When Peter Donders was in the major seminary in Holland, the president of the seminary told him to read the annals of the Propagation of the Faith from America.

So he read letter after letter, story after story, about the need for priests in America.

The immigrants were in great need for priests -- for saying Mass, etc.

So Peter got the bug, the desire, the hunger, the thirst to go to North America. A bubble formed deep within him to go there.

Here I am Lord, send me.

Next, his director, a priest named Van Soomen told him about the need for priests in Surinam. The Indians, the blacks (former slaves), the mulattos, the Dutch, all needed priests.

So once again he heard the call, the cry, the need, and Peter said, “Here I am Lord, send me.”

Vocation: Here I am Lord, send me.


The same thing happened to John Neumann. Like Peter Donders, he too started off as a diocesan priest, and then became a Redemptorist - and later on the bishop of Philadelphia.

When he was in the seminary, in the theologate, in Bohemia, he got that same bug, that Peter Donders got. 

America needed priests.

The seed was planted.

John Neumann wanted to come to America.

The immigrants were starving for priests.

Vocation: Here I am Lord, send me.

Here I am Lord, send me.


When I was in grammar school, the same thing happened to me.

Redemptorist priests came into our classroom, when they returned for vacation from missionary work in Brazil and Puerto Rico and they told us of the foreign missions.

Here I am Lord, send me.

That was my dream.


When St. Alphonsus went to Scala from Naples, Italy,  for his vacation, he discovered goatherders, migrants were without priests. They were sheep without a shepherd.

The gospel for today sums up his basic feelings.

MATTHEW 9: 35 ff.

“At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned,  like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.”

Alphonsus said, “Here I am, Lord. Send me.”

Vocation: “Here I am Lord. Send me.”


Today we we celebrate the feast of St. Francis Xavier. He saw the great crowds of people in the east and in Africa, who were like sheep without a shepherd.

He did it. He went East young man and visited all kinds of places till he died on his way into China. 

And he wished he could go to the college young men of Paris and Europe and tell them what he saw, so they too would say, “Here I am, Lord. Send me.”

“Here I am, Lord. Send me.”

He was trying to touch that basic core feeling that got us to Mass this morning.

“Here I am, Lord. Send me.”


I'm 77 now and I never got to Brazil.

However, looking back I think of various people I have met on Parish Missions and Week-end Retreats who complained about their parish priest. It would often come up in large group question and answer periods.

They talked about dead priests - dead liturgies - dead music - dead homilies - dead parishes. Then they would add, "No wonder our kids dropped out of church."

Like our recent political campaign, they often were much more negative than positive.

I didn't hear the good stuff about good priests, parishes, homilies and service.

I would only hear comments like:  “I am worried about my children.” “I am worried about the future.”

As I thought about this, I realize that's all like the evening news. There are bad lawyers, teachers, and doctors.

In time I realized that each of us need to hear the bottom line in all this: "Be the best I can be in whatever life situation I'm in."


Jesus summoned his 12 disciples and gave them authority to expel unclean spirits and to cure sicknesses and diseases of every kind.

Here I am, Lord. Send me

“He gave them instruction: Go instead after the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go make this announcement: ‘The reign of God is at hand.’”

Here I am, Lord. Send me.

“Cure the sick,
raise the dead,
heal the leprous,
expel demons.”

Here I am, Lord. Send me.

“The gift you have been given, give as a gift.”

Here I am, Lord. Send me. 
December 3, 2016


Where do shadows go?
They seem to slide along
and then slip away into the
dark of December afternoons.
Like so many of my comments
and afternoon observations,
they seem to slip off the face
of those I’m talking to - and
at times I wonder if anyone 
is really interested in anything
I have to say. Ooops! Wait!
This is a two way street.
What are you trying to say?

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Friday, December 2, 2016



The title of my homily for this 1st Friday in Advent is, “Do You See?”

“Do You See?”


One of the nicest  persons I have  ever met was Teddy Meehan.

I ask you today: Who was the nicest person you ever met? Whom did you learn from? Who influenced you? Who gave you some of your thoughts and ways you see and do life?

Often it takes years of distance to realize who this person or persons were?

Like if you were on a mountain and all the people you ever met or knew were down below in the valley - standing there. Look at the crowd. Some people would be big like Macy Day Parade balloons - much bigger than the people around them. Who is the biggest person? Or persons? Name 3 or 5.

If you have a computer or a ball point pen, write down their name -  and then type or write down a list of why this person or persons means so much to you.

I would put down the name, “Teddy Meehan.”

He was a priest - a teacher we had in the major seminary - and I ended up living with him for 6 years in the major seminary - while studying to be a priest and then 8 years - years later.

His real name was Francis Meehan, but everyone called him, “Teddy” because he had buck teeth like Teddy Roosevelt - and he actually looked like Teddy Roosevelt.


He taught us Church History - but I learned mainly about seeing from him.

He saw all people as equal. He saw the little guy - and the neglected - the forgotten - and the unnoticed - but he didn’t use categories. He was with the person he was with.

In class as he taught us history, he would say over and over and over again, “Do you see?”

He was asking us if we saw what he was seeing.

He wanted to be understood.

Don’t we all? Don’t we all?

And when others don’t see what we see, don’t we have our hands on one of the great causes of loneliness.

Different guys would with little drawn ballpoint pen sticks on a page in their note book each time Teddy would ask, “Do you see?” One, /, two /, three /, four / five - which would go over the first four ball point pen sticks.

5, 10, 15, and on and on and on.  One class he said, “Do you see?” 256 times.

“Do You See?”


We all know that the blind can see and say, “I see.” By that I mean: as in “I see what you’re getting at.”  And those who see can be very blind.

Do you see what I’m getting at in this homily?


In today’s gospel we hear about two blind men crying out to Jesus, “Son of David, have pity on us.” [Cf. Matthew 9: 27-31.]

They want to see.

Don’t we all?


Today’s first reading is from Isaiah. He shows up quite a bit in Advent - and many other times of the church year. [Cf. Isaiah 29: 17-24.]

Isaiah saw what was missing and he filled in the blanks.

Isaiah was a dreamer.

Did you ever meet someone who could look at something - and see possibilities?

Picture someone seeing a garbage dump and at the same time see dump trucks showing up - and all the garbage is removed. Next come bull dozers and graders and new soil and trucks with green grass sods to cover all the dirt. Then see a softball field. Next see  swings and slides and climbing bars and a basketball court - and kids running everywhere - celebrating life in that park.

And all you see is a garbage dump.

In today’s first reading Isaiah sees an orchard  becoming a forest - the deaf hearing readings from a book - the lowly being lifted - the blind seeing - the arrogant gone - evil disappearing and those who don’t get it, getting it.

DECEMBER 2, 1980

On this day, December 2, 1980, 4 women - Maura Clark, Ita Ford, Dorothy Kazel, and Jean Donovan were taken to a cow pasture in El Salvador. Two were raped. All 4 were murdered.  Maura Clark and Ita Ford were Maryknoll Nuns, Dorothy Kazel was an Ursuline nun, and Jean Donovan was a 27 year old lay missionary from Cleveland.

They were there because they saw poor there.

They were killed because military folks and rich folks didn’t like what these 4 women were seeing.

Jesus said that’s going to happen if you open your mouth.

Listen to the Beatitudes and you’ll see that Jesus saw different than lots of folks. Isaiah did too.


Let me say something now that the elections are over. If I said this before November 8th, people would complain that I’m politicking from the pulpit.

We have lots of people in our area from El Salvador. Do you see them?

Some are legal; some are illegal.

I don’t see that either way. I see them as human beings trying to live a great life with their kids.

Do you see them?

They are painting houses. They are working lawns. They are in restaurants. They are cleaning homes.

Do you see them?

That’s the title of my homily: Do You See?

I see them and I think of my mom and dad who came to America when they were young - to get out of poverty.  My dad worked lifting supplies coming into the National Biscuit Company in Manhattan, New York City. My mom cleaned hotel rooms in the Adams Hotel in Boston and then became a maid and a cook in a wonderful home. Both had little education. Both were very smart. Their 4 kids all got a great education - college, etc. etc. etc.


Advent is the time every year - and every year - we should be getting better in how we see life - and others - and ourselves.

Do you see?


Let me close with a neat parable or story about the priest I mentioned in the early part of this homily.

One time I saw Teddy spot a fly trying to get out the window on the second floor of our major seminary. He carefully took the buzzing fly in his hand carefully. He walked across the corridor. He went into his room. He opened up that window and let the fly out on that side of the building. I asked him what he was doing. He said, “Oh the fly wanted to get to  the other side. He wanted to get out and then fly all the way up to the roof so as get to the other side - so I helped him.”

Do you see what that story means?
December 2, 2016


Much, not all, is underneath,
like gum under a church bench.

There’s oil underneath, so too a treasure -
buried - because robbers were near.

So too your feelings - buried beneath -
underneath your kind words to me.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Thursday, December 1, 2016



What I would like to speak about is “The Choice Is Always Ours.”  “The Choice Is Always Ours.”

That’s the idea that struck me when I read today’s gospel. Jesus gives us a choice. 

I can be the type of person who builds my house on rock or the type of person who builds his house on sand.

“The Choice Is Always Ours.”

I have a choice. 

It’s sort of like a black and white way of seeing life and approaches to life and its choices.

And it’s a good way at times of approaching life.

“The Choice Is Always Ours.”


Advent is a time—one of those times we can step back and see life and its choices in a hard fashion—in a black and white way and to see life with its contrasting choices.

To see the basic choices of life and the basic choices we are making with our time and with our life.

Moreover Advent is not just waiting and then reflecting. It’s also a time to see if I need to make some newer moves in my life.

So that I can not just be the one who gives gifts at Christmas, but that I myself can be a gift that I give others at Christmas: myself, a better me—not just the giving of money or a shirt, but to give the people of my life, to my family, to my community, my parish, wherever I am, a better me. It’s cheaper, but it’s also tougher.

That I can be the best gift, not Chevas Regal or diamonds or the best new toy on the market.


So that’s my topic today. That’s what I want to preach on.

“The Choice Is Always Ours.”

A new me or the same old me.

“The Choice Is Always Ours.”

This is a black and white way of looking at all this. It’s sort of like the white snow and the dark trees of December. It’s sort of like the white moon and the dark lake.

Now it’s simplistic. It’s not complicated. And life is complicated—very complicated.

Life is infinitesimal details—like the details in a space shuttle—astronautically details. 

But by that very reality, sometimes it’s smart to be simple, to cut things down to “yes” and “no” realities. This way or that way realities. Make things black and white. And of course, you can scream, “Wait a minute. Things are not that simple. Things are not black and white.”

Right! But sometimes to learn we have to make things black and white—just giving two choices—not allowing us to have a big menu.

It’s contrast. Jesus preached that way quite often. 

So let’s begin—using images, poetry, pictures that Jesus used. Let’s take some time to ask basic questions, using some basic meditations, some basic considerations about life, some basic choices in life.

“The Choice Is Always Ours.”


Let’s begin by turning to the Bible. It’s loaded with lots of contrasting images that we can bring to prayer and bring to thought—lots of contrasting images that will help us see in stark black and white colors either or choices for how to live and do life.

And thank God Catholics are turning to the Bible more and more as a prayer book—as a source book for thinking and meditation.

What used to be a source of division now is a source of prayer for all Christians.

(Problems will always remain with the Bible, but as we were taught, only about 10 % of the Bible is a problem. 90 % is excellent for prayer and reflective reading.

Vatican II said to open up the treasures of the Scriptures for the faithful—quoting St. Jerome, “Ignorance of the Scriptures is Ignorance of Jesus Christ.” 

So thank God for the increase in Bible reading. There are various Bible courses in person or on tapes or in books. Reflective reading of the Scriptures here in Church in front of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, in the presence of the Word made flesh dwelling amongst us. 

I find myself using the Scriptures more and more for sermons, whereas before it was the movies, songs, books, the New York Times, Time magazine, etc.  


Today’s gospel gives us the choice to build our house on rock or to build our house, our future,  on sand. [Cf. Matthew 7: 21-24-27.]

This is the first image I want to focus on. There are many more.

If I build my house on rock, I hear the word of God, put it into my life, then I’m building a strong future. When the storms of life hit me, I’m okay. I don’t crumble. The phone rings, the cancer is announced. The tragedies hit and I stand firm, because my house is built on rock. 

But if I don’t put the word of God into my life, don’t even consider or reconsider it, then I’m building my house on sand.  I’m living a wishy washy life. 

So the choice is building my life on quick sand - living a quicksandish type of life - dying a  quicksandish kind of living.  

So which is more me? When the phone rings or there is a knock on the door, when there is a message of trouble, a death in my life, a new appointment that is a disappointment, will I fall apart or not fall apart based on what my house was built on. Can I handle the storms and stress of life? Can I handle conflict in my life or sickness or temptation? So it’s obvious if it’s on sand my life falls apart. Rock or sand? 

“The Choice Is Always Ours.”


Or as Jesus said once, I have a choice to be a tree that produces fruit on a tree or a tree that just takes up space. 

The fig tree, the orange tree, the apple tree that gives fruit, that’s putting out, that’s what we are being called to be.

Then there is the person who just sits there doing nothing, nothing but cross word puzzles or is a cross with his or her words to the rest of the family or work space—just taking up space, doing nothing. 

“The Choice Is Always Ours.”

So I can be a good tree or a bad tree (Matthew 12: 33). How’s that for a black and white image. We know trees by the fruit they produce or don’t produce. What am I? A provider or a waste? A giver or a taker? When I walk into a room, what do I create? What conversations do I provide? 

Do I say to others, “Take a break? I’ll do the dishes. I’ll put out the garbage. I’ll take care of supper.”

Or am I a rotten apple?

By their fruits you shall know them.

“The Choice Is Always Ours.”


The first servant is the good guy or gal. She or he wears the white hat. She or he is considerate. She or he is kind. She or he listens. She or he understands.

The second servant is the bully. Bullies push people around. They yell. They use their voice to control. They are moody. They are selfish.  They are drunk. They try to control everything. They are  lazy and stick others with the tough jobs. They cause problems.

Which servant am I? Forgiving and Unforgiving servant? (Cf. Matthew 18: 21)

“The Choice Is Always Ours.”


This used to be called the parable of the 10 virgins. 5 were foolish; 5 were wise. The foolish were unprepared; the wise were prepared. They brought enough oil. You never can be sure when the bridegroom is going to show up. You have to be prepared, because you never know.

The world could end in 2017 or maybe it’s 35,982. Who knows? Ready or not, here it comes. It’s earthquake time. It’s accountant time. Make an accounting of your stewardship.

Which is more me: wise or foolish?

“The Choice Is Always Ours.”


Another two that Jesus uses is the way or the road: do I take the narrow or wide path?

Do I want to be the person who is walking the narrow way, the back road. This road can be curvy, dangerous, rocky. It’s the road that we can’t see too far ahead. 

Or do I want to spend my life on the wide road that leads to destruction—the 4 lane highway that is crowded, the obvious road to take. According to Jesus it’s the road  that leads to death.

The narrow curving winding way that seems dead, the road not taken,  leads to life? 

The wide way has lots of stuff along it—lots of stores and amusements and attractions, that seem so life giving. The wide road has lots of signs, fewer pot holes, plenty of stores and shops with lots of stuff.

I saw on TV once a man walking down the street with lots of bags, suitcases, camera bags, lots of stuff and he comes to a narrow door. He turns in and tries to get in through that door, but he can’t fit because of all his stuff. He won’t put them down, so he gives up and  goes on. The camera keeps focusing on the half open door as the man goes down the street.  Just then a little kid comes running up the street and he fits right in through that narrow door way. He has nothing. The voice in the background was giving the Sermon on the Mount about the two ways—but I could hear Jesus saying, “Unless you be like little children.”

Do I accept Jesus as the way, the truth and the life? 

“The Choice Is Always Ours.”


Do I want to be wheat or weeds? [Cf. Matthew 13: 24) Wheat that can become bread, that can become food for our table, or even the Body of Christ. Our body in service to others. 

Or do I want to be weeds—weeds that are just taking up space? Useless. Just watching TV, sleeping, wasting my life,

Wheat or weeds? 

“The Choice Is Always Ours.”


Do I want to be a sheep or a goat? Sheep or goat?  

“The Choice Is Always Ours.”

The sheep is the one who always gives. He or she is aware of the sick. They visit the hurting, the lonely. They are aware of who’s who and what’s what and they go out of their way to help the one’s who need help.

They call up the forgotten or they write them a letter. They make their day. Or they take a walk or drive to see the sick. Or those who are lonely or in prison with problems trapped, stuck, caught, or thirsty or hungry or naked.

Or we can be a goat—doing none of these things— doesn’t see the hungry, thirsty, naked, and the only one one he feeds or gives a drink to is self. Visits himself, cares for himself, warms himself, when he’s sick he takes good care f himself. 

Amen. As long as you did it to the least of my brothers or sisters, you did it to me.

Sheep or goat? “The Choice Is Always Ours.” 


Which is more you, the yeast of Jesus that helps all rise or the yeast of the Pharisees and the Sadducees that is rotten? (Cf. Matthew 16: 5)


Advent I think it’s a good time to look at our life this way. To see it in black and white contrasting choices.

Do any of the many images I already mentioned grab you?


A man was telling me on a retreat once that he went to a hypnotist who was know to be able to help people lose weight. He felt he was sick and tired of himself being overweight and that he had to try something new to lose weight.

And the example that the hypnotist gave him was that of the Golden Bridge.

And the guy lost weight and when he came on retreat he had to tell me his story and he told me about the Golden Bridge and said that I might want to use it in a sermon some time.

The hypnotist said to close one's eyes and picture a golden bridge over a stream or river of water.

Picture land on one said and land on the other side and water right down the middle separating the two pieces of land and the golden bridge connecting both sides.

On one side of the bridge put oneself as we are with our present patterns, our present patterns of living, of eating, of sleeping, of exercising, drinking patterns, how we use our time and our life and our energies, how we relate to our family, how we do our job, oneself as we are, exactly as we are right now.  

Now see oneself on the other side of the bridge as we would like to be: thinner, exercising, being nice to people, eating lots of salads and not junk food, sleeping right, walking, trim, smiling, happy. See oneself healthier. Whatever way we dream we would like to be, less cholesterol, less triglycerides, living longer, moving faster, etc.

Next step back a distance and see both sides of the bridge at once. Like a tennis game, move
our head back and forth. Compare oneself on every aspect of our life. Really give both choices a real good look. Even use a piece of paper and draw the whole thing.  Describe oneself  A and B. Contrast oneself.

Then make a decision which side of the bridge we want to live on. 

“The choice is always ours.”

“The choice is always ours.”

And if we choose the healthier side, the thinner side, the more alive side, we'’ll feel the tension of wanting to go back, like those crossing the desert, wanting to be back in the flesh pots of Egypt. And we’ll actually go back over, but we best admit to oneself and be honest with oneself. 

Well it worked for this guy who told me his story. He lost weight and he felt much better about himself. 

I thought it was a good example. One can use it for drinking problems, sexual problems, anger problems, jealousy problems, sleeping problems. Any problem.

I said to the guy that I’d use it for a sermon and here it is, I’m using it.

What kind of a Christian am I?

What kind of a person am I?

“The choice is always ours.”


Theologically we could work in grace - growing gracefully.

We can let grace build on our nature.

We have some choices here. 

We can ask in prayer with and through Jesus that we receive and cooperated with the graces we need in all this. 

We can ask Jesus Christ to be  the bridge.

Or we could ask Christ to come from the other side - Paradise - onto our side of the bridge.

We can ask Jesus to be The New Adam to lead us the Old Adam and Eve back over the bridge back into the Garden, 

We can ask Jesus - the new Moses - to take us his people out of their Egypt and head us for the Promised Land.


I heard this same idea of contrast and choice in a Christmas sermon a few years back. It was an example that I never forgot. I stole it and used it a few times. The guy said he heard it from someone, so if anyone is stuck for a sermon you too can use it.

The example is this. 

We have a choice of being a Christmas Tree person or an Apple Tree person. 

The Christmas tree is beautiful when we look at it in our living room. It stands out. It’s all decorated. It has lights. It’s well dressed. It’s decorated. And then people come and put presents at its feet

But in reality, if we think about it, it’s dead. It’s a dead tree. Or sometimes it’s fake or artificial. It just stands there and does nothing. It just receives. It doesn’t give. People do for it. They put lights on it. They make it glitter. But it’s still dead.

And after Christmas it’s thrown out—to be burned. It has no use—except perhaps for fire wood, but it’s not that great even as fire wood, going up in a quick blaze—or it’s artificial, it disappears for another year—sitting in the basement or a closet in a box—doing nothing.

But the apple tree is alive. In the spring it gives blossoms. It gives a beautiful smell to the air. In the summer it gives shade and beauty and hope. And in the fall it gives apples—food. And it does this over and over and over again, steadily through the years—without saying a word. A tree has no mouth. 

So which would we rather be: the Christmas Tree Person or the Apple Tree Person?

“The choice is always ours.”


1) Which of the images of Jesus says the most to me about myself? 

          a) Wide Gate or Narrow Gate?

          b) Good Tree or Bad Tree?

          c) Good and Faithful Servant or Bully Boy?

          d) Wise Virgin or Foolish One?

          e) Sheep or Goat?

          f) House on Rock or House on Sand?

2) What words of Jesus do we find hardest to take—not understand, something we know exactly what he’s talking about, but we don’t like because it’s too tough? E.g.:

- deny very self,

- forgive 70 x7 times,

- turn the other cheek,

- forgive your enemies,

- I was hungry and you fed me, etc.

3) If we could take one message, one parable, one saying, one story of Jesus and have it as an advertisement on prime time TV for a week, which one would we pick?

4) What words of Jesus would we want printed on our tomb stone? if we could do that, would it be something that sums up our life? Would it be something that sums up our death?

Would it be something that is for us and what we wish we could do with our life, our dreams? 


During this Advent, why not take some time out to look at our life choices? Our life. What kind of a person am I:

Sheep or Goat?

House on Rock or House on Sand?

Wheat or Weed?

Wise Virgin or Fool?

Big Highway Person or Little Way Person?

Christmas Tree Person or Apple Tree Person?

Which side of the Golden Bridge do you live on and what side of the Golden Bridge are you living on right now?

“The choice is always ours.”