Friday, December 23, 2016

DECEMBER 23, 2016


An itch or a phone call or a suggestion:
these are how things happen…. Okay -
some things are planned. But most of the
time they are unplanned - unseen - till long
after they happen. One person coughs
in the movie. Soon another person coughs
and on and on and on. One domino hits 
another domino and soon someone else 
is wearing their t-shirt inside out or jeans 
without knees in Rio de Janeiro or Jakarta
or Johannesburg. The old saying  is true 
about there being three types of people: 
those who make things happen, those
who watch things happen and those who
have no clue to how things just happened.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Thursday, December 22, 2016

December 22, 2016


Did you ever notice the sea 
turns to gold some mornings 
when looking towards the east 
and that same sea turns to 
silver on a full moon night 
when all is clear and cold - 
and the water is shivering? 

Did you ever notice that 
the little baby who won’t look 
you in eye - who won’t give 
poor little you - a hint of a smile, 
that she lights up and reaches 
out when her baby sitting 
grandmother walks into the room? 

Did you ever notice how much 
you’re not noticing: the salt on pretzels, 
shades of green, the gal adjusting 
her car rear view mirror and then 
putting on her lipstick at the red light, 
the poor, the great unnoticed ones 
tugging at the tassels of your coat?

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

December 21, 2016


Dark skirts the edge of the earth
this early, early morning -
before coffee and a shower -
before all are awake - except
truck drivers and those who 
have to open the doors to start
the day. Today.... Today - the 
darkest day of the year.... on 
paper - but as everyone knows
the darkest day of the year is
the day when the phone rings 
or the doctor tells us, “There is
not much time left - better say
your ‘Thank you's’ and ‘Good byes.’”
But know the dawn - the light - arrives
earlier and earlier from the east.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Tuesday, December 20, 2016


The title of my homily for December 20th  is, “On Being the Favorite.”

I don’t know about you, but I love to ask parents who their favorite child is.

Most of the time parents respond  that they don’t have a favorite.

Others nuance their answer by saying, “It all depends. I like this about this one and that about that one. So it all depends.”

And sometimes a parent says they have a favorite.

I never had problems with someone being the favorite, because I had favorite teachers and favorite priests I’ve been stationed with.

And sometimes I add something people don’t like to report: there are some folks who are not my favorites.


I’m bringing this up because this is a way of translating Luke 1: 28 - which is part of today’s gospel. It’s where the angel Gabriel says to Mary, “Hail full of grace. The Lord is with you.”

Most translations say, “Greetings, most favored one.” or “Hail , O favored one.” The King James Bible has , “Hail, thou art highly favored. The Lord is with you.”  In Greek: it’s “kecharitomene”  - favored one.

Our Catholic translation goes with the beginning of the Hail Mary,  “full of Grace….”

I’ve run into Protestants and others who don’t get the Catholic thing about Mary.  I like to say, “Walk into any big city art museum and walk around and look at the pictures. You’ll find out she’s the favorite of so many artists.  Then I am tempted to add, “And you think Mary is our favorite. Talk to God and you’ll find out that Mary is God’s favorite as well.”

So when we say the Hail Mary, we’re not only saying what the Angel Gabriel said - but we’re joining with billions of people who have praised God for picking Mary to be his Mother.  God chose Mary  to bring Christ into our world - because she is the Father’s favorite.

Moreover, God gives Mary to us and Christ gave her to us from the cross.  

Hail full of Grace, most faithful one of God.


Then the call to all of us is to be like Mary - to favor those we’re with.

We know people who have  run out of wine  of life. Mary helped the couple at Cana in Galilee when they ran out of wine.  We know people who are hurting along the way of their cross - and those who are dying.  Mary was there for all - on their ways of the cross - and she is under our cross when we’re dying.

We pray for that in every Hail Mary: “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”

If I hear anything about Jesus it’s he noticed who was stuck - who was touching the tassels on his cloak - those who were under the tree of a cross.

So I assume he learned much from Mary. Hey the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.
December 20, 2016


It sits there quietly on my desk
and sometimes in my shirt pocket.
Without knowing it, it has a poem
or an article in it - but I’m guilty
of laziness. That's my form of birth 
control or too many abortions. 

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Monday, December 19, 2016



The title of my homily is, “5 Movies.”


Imagine it’s Christmas morning - and it’s the tradition in this family to open Christmas gifts on Christmas morning.

A teenage boy sees a neat pile of gifts under the Christmas tree with his name on them.

He opens one gift - from mom - two nice dress shirts. He says to his mom, “Thanks.”  At least it wasn’t underwear, the gift he got from her every Christmas till 2 years ago. He gets a game he wanted from an older brother. And then there is this small box - the shape of a tissue box. It’s not wrapped as neat as his mom’s gifts to him - but it’s wrapped.

He shakes it and then opens it. It’s from his dad. “Love Dad.”

It’s 5 movies.

“Strange gift - but interesting,” he thinks. Then he says, “Thank you!” to his dad, because they are 5 movies that he knows of. In fact he likes them.

It’s two evenings  later and he’s in the car with his dad and he asks him, “Dad, that was an interesting Christmas gift you gave me: 5 movies.  What was that all about?  You got me wondering.”

His  dad says, “I was wondering what to get you for Christmas - and I spotted some DVD’s near the TV set in the basement that you and your brother always use. So I went into a CD movie place in the mall and checked out the movies.”

“I found one you have mentioned from time to time - then a second - then a third - then I remembered two others - but they didn’t have them - so I got them on line.”

“Wow,” he says. “Thanks!”

But the thanks doesn’t stop there. He begins thinking about all this during the rest of the month - and he gets a glimpse that his dad really is aware of him  - thinks of him from time to time - and is listening.

What that teenage boy doesn’t know is that 20 years from now - he’ll be giving his father’s eulogy - at his funeral - and he’ll make reference to that Christmas 20 years ago when his dad gave him 5 movies as a Christmas gift.

More…. There’s more. He wonders what his dad’s 5 favorite movies are - along with his mom - and along with his two sisters and his brother.

More…. He starts talking more with his dad as well as the family - all because of that gift from his dad that Christmas.

More…. He pushes to make it a practice once a month - to have movie night as a family - and it brings their family together even more.

The title of my homily is, “5 Movies.”


As I thought about all this, I started wondering what my favorite 5 movies are. I jotted down about 10 and then started cutting  out  5.  Difficult.

So here are 5 favorite movies.  The list is not chiseled into stone.

But here are 5 with something I got out of each.


I like the Bourne movies. The first was The Bourne Identity [2002]

Jason Bourne is found floating in the water off Marseille, France by Italian fishermen. He’s rescued by some fishermen - but surprise, he doesn’t know who he is. He doesn’t know his identity.

He spots a gal with an old car - and she’s his ticket to Paris - so he asks her to drive him for a price. She goes for it.

On the road to Paris, they stop into a road restaurant - like the one’s on Route 95. He says to Marie Kreutz - the gal - “I don’t know who I am, but why do I know where there might be a rifle in here - underneath that counter over there.

He continues and asks why do I know who might be a police officer - that guy over there - and who’s right handed and who’s left handed.

“Why do I know what I know?”

For some reason that’s a great question.

It’s a good idea to pause every once and a while and ask, “Why do I know what I know?”

And hopefully that will lead to great gratitude towards our parents or some teacher or some significant person in our lives - who taught us key life lessons.

Ask why a movie grabs us.  Figure out scenes and situations in favorite movies that impact our lives.


The second movie that grabbed me was Doctor Zhivago [1965].

It taught me how much in life is out of our control.

We have it easy in the good old U.S.A.  Doctor Zhivago has his life all planned out, but in the meanwhile a war, a revolution [the Russian Revolution]  breaks out and he is grabbed and his whole life falls apart.

Weather, divorces, deaths, sickness, loss of a job, new teachers, new principals, coaches,  etc. etc. etc. can change our lives - and we find ourselves out of control.

So Doctor Zhivago puts us in another person’s living room.


The next movie that I would list is Lawrence of Arabia [1962].

He thinks outside the box. He thinks the different. He’s the one who said when the European powers were drawing the lines for mid-east - you don’t know what you are doing. You have to go tribal - not your way. Well, look at what happened? We’re dealing with those mistakes to this day.

In the movie, Lawrence decides to attack Aqaba by going across the desert. All the guns are pointed out to sea - and all the trench works and forts leading to this Red Sea port are there for attacks from the water. There is no protection from the desert - and so that’s how Lawrence moves on Aqaba.

That seeing what nobody else was seeing - that planning from another point of view. Isn’t that what our world needs?

There is another scene that I remember. While crossing the desert to attack      Aqaba a guy falls off his camel and is lost in the desert. Lawrence overhears this and mounts his camel to go in search of the guy. Someone says, “It is written in the book you can’t do that.”

Lawrence basically says, “Watch me!”  He then goes out and rescues this guy.

I hear people all the time who think that God has written the plan, the script of their life and they have to follow that plan.

I like people who laugh at life and hear God laughing at life as that person writes their own script as their life unfolds - and they work to make their life go the best ways they can make it work


I’ll list Groundhog Day [1993] as my fourth movie. Bill Murray plays the part of a TV weatherman, Phil Conners. In the movie he gets to do Groundhog Day over and over again till he gets it right.

There are various messages from this movie, but the basic clear message I get is that every day we get a chance to do it all over again - and to make it a morning prayer to say: “Lord, thank you for one more opportunity to get it right.”

The next message I get is that we do make mistakes - definitely - so a key message is: “Lord, help to learn from my mistakes.” 

Name the mistake. Name the learning from that mistake.

The third message I get from that movie is this.  Sometimes I walk into a room or someone else walks into a room and someone attacks right away with a “wrong word”.  When I hear that - sometimes - not often - but sometimes, because of the movie Groundhog Day, I get up and walk out of the room and then come back again and say, “Now let’s try that entrance once more - but this time with nice!”


And lastly, I better include the movie, It’s A Wonderful Life.

It’s the wonderful movie  - released on December 25th, 1946.

I’m sure Frank Capra - never thought his movie would be seen every Christmas ever since.

It’s on TV every Christmas season at least 2 dozen times.

It has so many lessons for so many people.

A key message for me is to realize that what I do has consequences - like the domino effect.

A priest walked into a classroom when I was in grammar school  - asked, “Who here would like to be a priest?” so I raised my hand and became a priest.

I wonder: if he didn’t become a priest, would my life be different - because he never would have walked into that classroom? Would I have become a priest? If he didn’t walk into that classroom, would my life have been different?

In the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, George Bailey, played by Jimmy Stewart, finds out all that would never have happened if he never existed - especially in Bedford Falls.

My comments this morning have lifetime consequences. You might go home and be nicer to your dad - who then is nicer to your mom - and both of them go out for supper and start talking to the waitress - who was having a bad day - and their words prevented that woman from planning to kill herself or what have you.

Hey, you never know. 

It’s a wonderful life.
December 19, 2016


When your regrets outweigh your begets,
then get moving, get creative, get going.

When your forgets, outweigh your remembrances,
then you have too many irons in the fire or you’re
either getting too old like me or don’t go there.

When your suggests are too, too many, get
a good secretary who will help you pick 3 a day.

And when your gets are weighing you down,
get a dumpster and simplify, simplify, simplify.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Sunday, December 18, 2016



The title of my homily for this 4th Sunday of Advent [A] is, “Asking for a Sign.”

It comes from the first sentence in today’s first reading from Isaiah 7, “The Lord spoke to Ahaz, saying: ‘Ask for a sign from the Lord, your God….’

As soon as I read that I said to myself,  “Hey, everyone does that.”

Everyone wants signs from God.


For example, someone is sick so they ask God for a healing. And then we start looking for signs that we or a love one is getting better.

For example, a kid has stopped going to church. Christmas is coming. We want to hear them say something like, “We’re going to the Christmas eve Mass and we hope there is parking.”

For example, we know a family marriage is shaky and we’re listening for a brother or sister or one of our kids to give off a sign that things are better.


So to be human is to look for signs.

We look for the handshake.  We look for the other’s eye in an interaction, to see if they will look us in the eye.  We had a fight the last time we were with them and we hope things are now better.

We listen to sound tones - in phone calls - to see if forgiveness might be coming or has already happened.

We get new neighbors.  We look for signs about what kind of neighbors they might be.
We get a new boss.  We’re watching. We waiting. We’re wondering. We’re hoping. We’re trying to figure what they might be off on.

I hold that we have unwritten lists of what to look for in a good doctor, plumber, mechanic, restaurant, teacher, book, priest, TV program, barber or hair dresser.

We have our signs - our leading indicators.

We sing the old song inwardly, “Don’t talk about love. Show me!”

To be human is to look for signs.


In the book of Exodus, the pharaoh is given 10 signs, 10 horrors, 10 tragedies, before he’ll let the Israelites go. He doesn’t believe in Moses’ message from God.

Divorces, splits or break ups, don’t happen after 1 mistake. There is always the 10 plagues or 10 disasters before someone sees the light.


If we read the gospels, we see this question about looking for signs happening from time to time.

People nag Jesus for a sign to prove he has the right to say what he is saying and to do what he is doing.

Sometimes he gives signs; sometimes he doesn’t.

He challenges people’s faith - that it’s all based on signs and wonders - and not on faith - faith is better.

Jesus tells us to read the signs of the times.

In the gospel of John we notice a dynamic happening: This is the first of his signs. It happened at a wedding in Cana of Galilee where Jesus changed water into wine. We can follow that thread - that pattern - to see all 7 of Jesus’ miracles: the 7th being the resurrection.

Last Sunday we had the scene in the gospel when John the Baptist - in prison - sent some of his disciples to ask if Jesus is the One.  And Jesus tells them to tell John the Baptist what they see: “the blind regain their sight,  the lame walk, people with leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raise, and the poor have  good news proclaimed to them.”

Today’s gospel gives us one of the birth of Jesus stories in the gospels.

Joseph believes the dream he has and takes Mary into his home.

Christmas - the Christmas story - the Christmas sign - is one of the two great signs of Christianity - of our faith.

The sign of the baby and the sign of the cross are central to our faith.

They touch the beginning and the end: birth and death.

We just had our Parish Mission and on the last night Father Kevin MacDonald asked folks to bring to church a faith or a love sign from their home. He and Deacon Leroy went through the church on Thursday night and blessed those signs. Right behind me a lady had a cross and right next to her a lady had a painted nativity scene.

St. Francis of Assisi stressed the crib and the cross as two great signs.

St. Alphonsus stress the big 3 signs: the crib, the cross and the tabernacle.

If you are looking for signs - meditate on the two great signs - one at the end of Advent - and the manger will be put up this coming week and we’ll venerate the cross on Good Friday.

And isn’t the Eucharist the great faith sign of Catholic Christians?

And we do, but we shouldn’t, make fun of C and E Catholics.

This Christmas put on your fancy winter coats - but also a rich smile, so that those who come to Mass - get a glimpse of great Christmas joy. Amen. 
December 18, 2016


Annapolis: restaurants and red bricks -
T-shirts and knick knacks - tourists
and Naval Academy runners - running
through our streets - strengthening
themselves and us for the future -
thank you; Chick & Ruth’s - Middleton’s -
Mangia and Café Normandie - pubs,
taverns, restaurants and a delly;
St. Mary’s and St. Anne’s and the
Presbyterian Church in between -
people, people, everywhere - our town
just one town, on the edge of the waters -
the Bay - around for a long, long time;
one store opening - one store closing;
one car arriving - one car leaving;
Main St., Alleys, Duke of Gloucester St.,
State Capital and County Seat -
Annapolis - and this is just Downtown;
and oops there’s Eastport - don’t you
ever, ever, ever, forget Eastport.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016