Saturday, December 10, 2016

December 10, 2016


One with the rain - well sometimes.
One with the sun - most of the time.
One with the snow - yes when looking
out the window; no when on the road.
One with the ocean - definitely, that is,
unless there’s a storm.
One with the mountains - all the time.
One with the music - it all depends.
One with the dance - no way. I have
two left feet.
One with the conversation - okay,
unless he’s in the room.
One with God - yes, but that one took time.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Friday, December 9, 2016

December 9, 2016


God, You’re all ears,
100 billion ears, all
through the years,
no mouth to be seen,
no wonder you’re so,
so. so silent.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016



The title of my homily is, “Maculate Deception.”

It’s a play on words for starters - today being the feast of the Immaculate Conception. I’m trying to catch your attention - and maybe get you to read this homily or sermon - so as to reflect on how we do life - or how life happens to us. It can be clean and neat - and it can be streaky and sneaky.

Hopefully, you’ll see that my title, “Maculate Deception” is more than a cute play on words.  This is a very serious topic.

The challenge will be: to imitate Mary’s life - filled with grace - or to die a life that is stained with too many deceptions.


Translation: God - the Invisible God - wanted to walk and talk in our midst in a new way. God wanted to be better noticed, recognized, accepted, understood by us - so this God decides to become human in time.

So God comes as a baby - a tiny baby - born of a woman.


We’re talking about God here - becoming a baby….

Definitely different….

But before we get there, we have to go backwards to God preparing the mother to be - when she was conceived by her parents.

God does something different here. God conceives of the mother of this baby to be immaculate - and so she was conceived in her mother’s womb - immaculate.  She would be original by being without original sin.

This is a mystery - along with the teaching that all of us have original sin - within us. We are good. We are beautiful.  We are blessed.

But we can also be flawed.

An  iddy biddy little beautiful baby called me - can be flawed - picking up bad example and bad habits - passed down to us.

Now original sin is not physical. It’s not like a smudge thumb pressed on a soul - like ashes on Ash Wednesday on our forehead.

It’s a possible crack in our attitude….

It’s a life that can be warped and deceptive at times.

In Hebrew there is a phrase called, “yetzer hara” [meaning: evil lurking at our door].  We can notice this in the Book of Genesis - Chapter 4 - verses 6 and 7.  God asks Cain, “Why are you angry and downcast? If you are well disposed, ought you not  to lift your head?  But if you are ill disposed, is not sin at the door  like a crouching beast hungering for you, which you must master?”

That’s a powerful image of sin. Sin, temptations, lurk at our door. They tug at our tent flaps. They want to come into our life.

So we pray, “lead us not into temptation”.

So we pray to Mary, full of grace, knowing we have fallen out of grace, far from grace over and over  again.

So Mary is special - being chosen by God - to be God’s Mother.

Now our church chewed upon - thought about - conceived in various ways - what his means and meant - with all its implications.

It wasn’t till 1854 that the Church stated that Mary was conceived immaculately. This became a dogmatic teaching. The Catholic Church said Mary was conceived without the original sin - of Adam and Eve.

Not everyone conceived of this happening this way. For example, St. Thomas Aquinas.  

So the title of my homily is, Maculate Deception in contrast to Mary’s Immaculate Conception.


And I’m using in the title of my homily a rare word, “maculate”.  We know the word “Immaculate” - because of the words “Immaculate Conception”.

Macula is the Latin word for “stain” - or “spot” or “blemish”.

The only regular way we might have heard the word is when someone has the eye problem called “macula degeneration”. It’s the leading cause  of eye vision loss for over 10 million Americans.

So Mary was conceived without stain, blemish, or spot.


God made this happen in the fullness of time.  The Greek word in the New Testament for the fullness of time - at the right time - is Kairos.

In Ephesians 1:10 we have a great text: “He has made known to us his hidden purpose - such was his will and pleasure determined beforehand in Christ - to be put into effect when the time [Kairos] was ripe: namely, that the universe, all in heaven and earth, might be brought into a unity in Christ.”

Mary, as William Wordsworth [1770-1850] would put it in his poem, The Virgin, became “our tainted nature’s solitary boast.”


The rest of us are maculate - stained - and for this homily I’m adding the word, “deception” - to play on the word “conception”.  

We are maculate - translation “messy” or “stained”.

We are deceivers - unfortunately - as well.

We hide from God.

Today’s gospel is Mary’s story.

Today’s first reading from Genesis is the story of the rest of us.

There is something about us  - that we don’t do what God wants us to do.

We have the gift of freedom  - and we don’t use that freedom well.

To be honest, to be transparent, to be naked, we eat forbidden fruit.

God gives us all - so much - and we tend to mess it up.

That sinful inner tendency is sin in the singular - original and unoriginal sin.
We can have so much - but we all cheat to get an edge on the rest of us - by going for the grab - the forbidden fruit - whatever it takes to make us more powerful than God and each other.

We lie.

Then we blame each other. Then we blame the snake. Then we hide.

We are into maculate deceptions.

Maculate means stained.

Deception: we spend our lives deceiving ourselves.

I remember a talk that a Sister Maureen McCann gave us years and years ago.

She talked about the 3 steps in how things really work:
1)   Life is illusion;
2)   Life is a disillusionment;
3)    and it’s then we have to make a decision.

Take health. Take death. Take aging.

We deceive ourselves - if we stay in the illusion that we won’t die.

Life is filled with illusions: we age. We sag. We will get our bloated or pot bellies.

Bread has a shelf life; so too each person.

Yet people complain that their Aunt Sally died.

Cars get dents, scratches, rust.

Dresses rip. Colors fade. Styles change.

Teeth hurt from time to time.

So too our bones.

Towers lean. Towers fall. Earth quakes.

Urinary tracks get infected.

Dollar bills get dirty.

Life is about scratches and scars, hemorrhoids and heart problems.

It’s an illusion if we think we are going to last forever.

To accept maculate deceptions - is a crafty creed.

Then when our deceptions bite us you know where, it’s time for us to make some serious decisions.

At some point, we have to admit that we lie to ourselves….We need to learn to admit we hide from ourselves….

Smart steps.

The second step after illusions is the acceptance of  the delusion.

Then comes the third step: decision.

I remember reading - years and years ago - a statement by some poet - perhaps Ted Hughes: “Oh the lies  I have told my energies.”

That resonated with me. Being a procrastinator, I got that. I have bottomed out a lot - getting lazy a lot of times.

As priest I’m listening to people all the time - some of whom confess - laziness - self-deception.  Me too.

In the recent elections Hilary was slammed for lying. In the recent elections Donald was challenged for his lies. A new word arose: post-truth.

Let’s be honest, we lie inwardly lots of times.

So it’s an important step to face our illusions and our disillusions and then to decide to move into truth.

And as Jesus put it, “The truth will set us free.”  


It’s important for everyone to hear the wisdom of the movie, The Wizard of Oz. Dorothy had to discover good and evil. Dorothy had to discover that much of life is walking in a dream. Dorothy had to discover the Wizard is nothing more than an old man behind a curtain - leading us on.

Life is moving ahead. The clock keeps ticking.

Life is following the yellow brick road - overcoming our obstacles - gaining heart, brains, wisdom, courage - and then getting back home so as to start all over.

Life is loaded with the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

We like the Good - but we don’t like the bad and the ugly.


So that’s a few of my thoughts on this feast of the Immaculate Conception.

It would be worth our while to step into any Catholic Church and go the a statue or picture of Mary and contrast her life with our life.

Moreover, isn’t that what people do instinctively when it comes to Mary?

We Catholics go to her shrine and admit, “Hail  Mary, full of grace. the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.


Then say Part 2 of that basic prayer: “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”

The title of my homily is, Maculate Deceptions.

We are stained deceivers and we need someone above us and better than us - to make it to the end of our yellow brick road.

That’s basically why Mary was needed to help us get to our eternal home.

Yes God, there is a God.
December 8, 2016


One said, “No!” to God.
The other said, “Yes.”
One started in paradise -
in a garden - filled with fruit.
One ended at Calvary - her
Son on the tree of death.
Eve’s Tree: forbidden fruit.
Mary’s Tree: the cross.
"Take and eat!  This is my Body.”

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Painting on top

  • Title: Tree of Life and Death Flanked by Eve and Mary-Ecclesia
  • Creator: Furtmeyr, Berthold, painter
  • Description: This image precedes the liturgy for the feast of Corpus Christi in a missal created for the Archbishop of Salzburg. The central roundel depicts a tree that bears both fruit and sacramental hosts. It thus combines the paradisaical Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge from Eden. On the right is Eve, who hands a forbidden fruit to a man kneeling at her feet. A death's head appears among the fruits on her side of the tree. The tempting serpent winds around the trunk, and offers Eve another piece of fruit from its mouth. On the left side is Mary-Ecclesia. Rather than a death's head, a crucifix hangs on this side. Instead of fruit, Mary-Ecclesia administers one of the hosts to a kneeling man who opens his mouth to accept it, and she is in the process of plucking yet another wafer. She is presented as a mirror image of Eve and thus the salvific antidote to the Fall. An angel accompanies Mary-Ecclesia on the left and Death accompanies Eve on the right. Both hold banderoles bearing text. Adam reclines in a gesture of sorrow at the base of the tree and also holds a banderole. In the upper two roundels are princely figures who hold banderoles bearing the text of Psalm 77:25 on the left and Psalm 36:16 on the right. Three shepherds depicted below illustrate Thomas Aquinas's Corpus Christi sequence "Lauda ducem et pastorum," but they also embody the virtues expected of a good ruler. The one on the left is the personification of "Prudentia," the one in the center is "Regalitas," and the one on the right is "Verus Pastor." All are accompanied by banderoles.
  • Source: Wikimedia Commons
  • Rights: Public Domain
  • Subject (See Also)Adam (Biblical Figure) Corpus Christi Death Ecclesia Eucharist, Sacrament Eve (Biblical Figure) Fall of Humankind Mary, Virgin, Saint Missals, Liturgical Books Mirror for Princes, Literary Genre Tree of Life
  • Geographic Area: Germany
  • Century: 15
  • Date: 1489
  • Related Work: Additional images:
  • Current Location: Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Clm 15710, 60v
  • Original Location:
  • Artistic Type (Category): Digital images; Manuscript illuminations
  • Artistic Type (Material/Technique): Vellum (parchment); Paint; Gold leaf
  • Donor: Male religious; Bernard von Rohr, Archbishop of Salzburg (1466-1481)
  • Height/Width/Length(cm): 38.29 cm/28.7 cm/
  • Inscription: Angel: ecce panis angelorum factus cibus viatorum [behold the bread of angels made food for pilgrims]; Death: mors est malus vita bonis inde [death is evil, life therefore is goodness]; Upper left prince: Panem angelorum manducavit homo
  • Related Resources: Nils Büttner, "Landschaftsmalerei um 1500," in Christoph Wagner, Berthold Furtmeyr: Meisterwerke der Buchmalerei und die Regensburger Kunst in Spätgotik und Renaissance [Ausstellungskatalog] (Regensburg 2010), 144-53, especially 149-51.
December 7, 2016


The first 500 hours of eternity.
Wow, what a surprise! -
what a purging....

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

December 6, 2016


Jolly Saint Nick, Santa Claus,
the stuff of legend and story,
a Saint celebrated by both Catholics
and Protestants,  and so many others.
Today, December 6th, is the feast
of a saint going all the way back 
to the 300’s. Some wanted to 
drop him - “We don’t worship saints!” -
But how can you stop generosity,
giving gifts, and a trick way to tell
kids not to be naughty but to be nice.
“Ho, ho, ho!” Merry Christmas.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016



The title of my homily is, “What Do You See, What Do You Think, When You See the Good Shepherd Mural Here at St. Mary’s?”

The theme and thought of the Good Shepherd hit me when I read today’s readings - both of which mention God as Shepherd.

Recently, someone told me after a Sunday Mass here at St. Mary’s that when they are praying here - they look up to the Good Shepherd Mural every time.  They mentioned that they pray to Jesus the Good Shepherd  to find their three kids - who have become lost sheep - and have dropped out of any kind of religion in their life.

The mural is not a Rembrandt - but it does get lookers and thinkers and prayers. And I’m sure some people might say, “Ooo. I have never looked at that mural - ever.”

After this short homily, I hope all will do that.


As you know, Jesus being presented as the Good Shepherd, is not only found in the gospels - like today’s gospel from Matthew - but in many  early Christian murals, pictures, in the  catacombs, and statues.

And it stayed around down through the centuries.


Last night I typed into Google the question: “Are sheep dumb?” I know I’ve said that in sermons - because I heard that in sermons and I was dumb enough to repeat that - without checking up on it.

Mosquitoes are the smartest - they always find a skin spot - even in the dark.

Back to sheep….  I read that various scientists and researchers say, “Sheep are not dumb.”

They can remember 20 to 50 faces.  They have and use their brains. Trouble is that a human brain would weigh around 1300 to 1500 grams - and a sheep’s brain is about 140 grams - so less  brain - but back to that mosquito….

Sheep can be individualistic and communal. They can follow a leader and they can be a leader. There are stories about sheep leading the flock back to the pen - in a blinding snow storm. They have a frontal cortex and it does what the frontal cortex of a brain does. However, I read last night - and I am not a brain surgeon - that they don’t have a prefrontal cortex and that’s the place where we have some of our key skills as human beings.

Ooops…. And they have much stronger ability to smell and scent than us humans. There is evidence that they can sniff out in the earth - key ingredients for specific sicknesses that they have.


I assume Isaiah and Jesus spotted sheep and goat herders in their daily life - and knew that some sheep got lost and shepherds were very caring and concerned about their sheep so they applied that image to how they wanted to say God our Father is like.

More: they would realize that a shepherd holding a lost sheep in his arms would have a lot more impact than holding a wild animal or a dangerous dog. I don’t think there were any alligators in the Jordan river in their time.

Seeing these scenes, they must have made the jump: if shepherds show such care for sheep, how much more does God care for us.


Simple message.

Pray for lost sheep.

And when lost, make the "Baa" prayer to God. It’s a great prayer when we feel lost. And God will come looking.

Monday, December 5, 2016



The title of my homily for this 2nd Monday in Advent is, “Still”.

[Spell it out]:  S  T  I  L  L  - “Still.”


I read today’s two readings a few times  - trying to see what thoughts they would trigger.

Check out Isaiah 35:1-10 and Luke 5: 17-26.

The contrast between stuck and non-stuck, motion and not moving it, hit me.

There’s a world of difference between a garden - blooming - bursting with flowers - and a desert - all just dry - same old same old - tan sand sitting still.

The first reading - Isaiah 35: 1-10  has the desert blooming and blossoming - with abundant flowers.

A bunch of years ago I was giving some talks in Tucson for two weeks - and someone said, “Pray for rain - because when you wake up the next morning - you will see the difference - big time.”  It didn’t rain. All was the same still hot scene for 2 hot weeks.

Read today’s first reading out loud a few times - slowly - and you will hear a symphony orchestra and see thousands of flowers bursting into color. Nice. If you don't, turn on your imagination.

Read Isaiah slowly and you will picture people walking down the aisle with walkers and canes. Then you'll see them dropping and ditching them and then dancing with freedom.  You will see the blind suddenly seeing; the deaf hearing; the lame leaping; and the mute singing.  You will see rivers bubbling and burgeoning up out of the earth and  pools of water appearing.

Roads will appear!

It will be a place of peace - with no wild animals lurking  - ready to pounce on people.

Listen to the last sentence in today’s first reading again, “They will meet with joy and gladness, sorrow and mourning will flee.”

That first reading is a neat contrast with today’s gospel from Luke.  We hear the story of a  paralyzed person who can’t walk and some paralyzed Pharisees and scribes - who can’t allow for someone to be freed from their sins. They don't get that this Jesus can heal  both physical and spiritual paralysis. Jesus frees the man and sends him home with his stretcher in hand.


If someone hasn’t seen us in 10 years - will they see a different person than the one they used to know. 

Are we still telling the same old stories - having the same old gripes and whinings?

I remember being hit by the following statement: “Some people with 20 years experience have one years experience 20 times and some people have 20 years experience."

Some people get stuck in a death, in a hurt, in a disaster - and their life becomes a deja vue experience day after day after day.

Isn’t that the theme of John Updike’s novel, Rabbit Run. It’s  about Harry "Rabbit"  Angstrom - who at 26 is still stuck in his high school -years -  still stuck in his basketball glory days.

Some people have had an abortion and at 73 - it’s as if it happened only yesterday - they still are paralyzed in the tragedy - and they keep aborting themselves.

I lived with two priests once - both in their 70’s - both were classmates. Back in their seminary days, one of these priests was pitching a no-hitter. The other guy was playing the outfield he let a single drop in. The pitcher expected him to catch it on a fly and could never let that go - never let that go….


I have a poem somewhere there about going home to Brooklyn once - going by a bar - and I spotted the same guy I saw sitting on a certain bar stool was still sitting there - still sitting there - after all these years.


The title of my homily is, “Still!”

There is a psalm that has the line, “Be still and know that I am God.”

Yes, but I would add, “Be still and see all the great motion - called life - and see God in the great mix - not being still - but being still alive. Amen.

December 5, 2016


All of us are standing here,
with bell in hand and hope
in heart - that all will stop
and gift us with a moment
of a bit time and a bit of 
love and generosity - for
ourselves - and for our salvation
as human beings and children
of God - otherwise we’ll cry,
we’ll die, for not experiencing love.

 © Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Sunday, December 4, 2016



The title of my homily is, “Otherness.”

O   T   H   E   R   N   E   S   S:  otherness.

As time goes on - hopefully we get to know ourselves - and each other - better and better than the me or the you of 5, 10, 20, 30 or 40 years ago.

How about you?

Would you be interested in a homily on, “Otherness?”


Let me give two great life principles.

Relax - I have today’s readings in mind. This is a homily - with thoughts coming out of today’s readings - for this Second Sunday of Advent [A].

The first life principle is this: “The other person doesn’t think the way I’m thinking.”

Remembering that principle will save us a lot of trouble - and problems.

But we often forget it - but it’s as obvious as the color of an orange.

It calls for communion and communication - talking to each other - listening to each other - finding out what each is seeing.

We’re both looking at the same movie, Advent,  Christmas, the election, the menu, what makes a good marriage, what makes a good life, but we’re both seeing something very different.

We forget this principle at least two times a day.

Second life principle: “The greatest sin is the inability to accept the otherness of the other person.”

I read that statement some 30 years ago - jotted it down - but it’s only been in these recent years that it has really hit me  - as being true, true, very, very true.

“The greatest sin is the inability to accept the otherness of the other person.”

This second principle is actually the first principle - but stated in a different way.



Somewhere along the line I discovered that people perk up when it comes to self-tests.

How many people have taken the Myers-Briggs test. It’s also called, “The Jungian Types test”. That test has helped a lot of people understand a lot of people - as different from each other.

And of course, some people have never heard about it, but they get it when they hear it explained.

Some people are introverts and some people are extraverts.

The wife was looking for the husband - but couldn’t find him. The car was in the driveway - but the husband wasn’t. She checked the cellar - no luck. “Where is he?” She looks out the window for the 5th time - no luck. Then she spots the tool shed at the other end of the backyard. She puts on her jacket - and heads for the shed. There he is - comfortable in a folding chair - listening to a transistor radio with a smile on his face. She asks, “I was looking everywhere for you.” Then she says, sort of accidentally, “Are you hiding from me?” And he says, “Well, yes!”

Not only are some people introverts and others are extraverts, but people function differently.  Some people are neat and some people are slobs. Some people are down to earth and practical; some people are intuitives and dreamers. Some people lead with their head; others lead with their hearts. Some people think their way through life; others feel their way.  Some people’s feelings are hurt; some people’s thinkings are hurt.

And that’s just one person’s insights about people’s otherness: namely Carl Jung - [1875-1961]. He was a  Swiss psychoanalyst - who was trying to figure out - why he and Freud and Adler were seeing people and each other so differently.

There are all kinds of other personality tests. If they are in a magazine like Reader’s Digest or O in the doctor or dentist’s office,  they are either marked up or ripped out.

People are fascinated by self-tests. It tells me people are intrigued by otherness and their way of seeing.


Today’s first reading from Isaiah triggered thoughts for this homily.

At times I’ve seen self-tests - about the difference between humans - using animals.

If you were an animal, what animal would you be?

If you were a dog, what kind of a dog would you be?

Some people bark, growl, hold on like a bulldog.

Some people are catty?

Some people are sneaky like a snake in the grass - and some bite and their bite is poisonous. Their comments or gossip about another ruins a person.

Some people are like one of the animals in Isaiah’s Peaceable Kingdom. Am I a wolf or a lamb? Am I a leopard or a kid goat? Am I a calf or young lion? Am I a cow or a bear? Am I a lion or an ox - a cobra or a little child?

Isaiah doesn’t mention elephants - but we’ve all heard about the elephant in the room.  So and so showed up - and everyone is dancing around him or her. Or we’ve all heard the saying, “When you’re up to your waist in alligators, we all forget that we’re in the swamp to drain it.”

And Isaiah’s dream is that everyone work to be at peace with one another.


Today’s second reading from Romans tells us, “Whatever was written previously for our instruction, that by endurance and by the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

Thinking and talking about otherness and personality types, the Bible, the Scriptures, presents all kinds of folks we can relate to - and we can differ from.

Who am I more like, Martha or Mary, the younger son, the prodigal or like the other brother, the goody good type? Am I like the builder who built his house on rock or the one who built his life on sand? Am I like Cain or Abel? Am I David or Goliath? Am I like Rachel or Leah? Am I like Esau or Jacob? Am I like the guy who used his talents or like the guy who buried his talents in a napkin and hid them in the ground, just in case he would fail?


And in today’s gospel, we have John the Baptist, featured. It’s Advent. John is very strict. He wears itchy clothes made out of camel’s hair and he eats locusts and wild honey. He’s strict and too, too serious for me. Jesus has tassels on his cloak and eats bread and wine, goes to weddings, and eats at the house of a sinner - a rich one at that. Like Jesus will do,  John goes after the Sadducees and the Pharisees, but Jesus seems so otherly different than him.


The title of my homily is, “Otherness.”

 I began by giving two principles: other people think differently than me - and I’ll be much more peaceful if I remember that.  Then I added, “The greatest sin is our inability to accept the otherness of the other person.”

Oh yeah…. In every family - there is someone we wish was different.

And we sinfully - neglect them - avoid them - see where they sit and we sit at a distance if we can.

We avoid communion - holy communion with them.

Pope Francis is trying to address this issue - with regards the divorced and remarried - who are out of the system.

In this homily, I’m trying to address this issue of people we excommunicate because they are different.

In case you think this is my pet issue and I’ve taken it off the leash in this homily to let it roam around this church and bark at you, go back to what is written in the Scriptures.

Here’s a statement by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, “You have learnt how it was said, ‘You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say this to you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. In this way you will be children of your Father in heaven, for he causes his sun to rise on the bad as well as the good, and his rain to fall on the honest and the dishonest alike. For if you love those who love you, what right have you to claim any credit?  Even the tax collectors do as much, do they not? And if you save your greetings for your brothers and sisters, are you doing anything exceptional?  Even the pagans do as much, do they not?  You must therefore be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”


Ooops I better give a third principal and conclude all this babble.

It’s this: “Wow are we going to be surprised in the next life with the otherness of God. Wow are we going to be surprised who’s going be seated at his table  and  who’s going to be right next to him in the next life - unless we have started to discover some of  this already in this life. 
December 4, 2016


I still remember my dad’s grey cereal -
Quaker Oats - with the smiling Quaker
guy on the box - and a smile on my dad’s
face as well - as he stood there at the altar -
the stove top - as  he stirred the grey water
into the mix of tiny tan flakes. Kids in years
to come would have Kellogg’s Frosted 
Flakes and colorful Froot Loops - but we
still have the memory - not of drab colorless
oatmeal - but of the joy my dad had in this his
Sunday morning liturgy of consecrating cereal.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016