Wednesday, August 16, 2017


FACE  TO  FACE 

INTRODUCTION

The title of my homily for this 19th Wednesday in Ordinary Time is, “Face to Face.”

Today’s first reading says that Moses had a face to face relationship with God.
What would that be like?

For starters, I can only take it on face value - that the author of today’s first reading from Chapter 34 of Deuteronomy is saying that Moses’ relationship with God was like a face to face relationship between two people.

It’s eyeball to eyeball. It’s intimate.  It’s close….

However, where it differs is that one part of the relationship is a human relating to God in a human way and God relating to one of us - in a human way. The scriptures are also  saying, nobody else but Moses had such a relationship with God.

I would think Adam and Eve had an equivalent relationship; with God.  They walked with God in the cool of the evening.

Of course this is poetry, this is imaginative writing, this is an author’s way of trying to get us to see a relationship with God  in a very human way.

The Book of Exodus is telling us that Moses face began to radiate, shine, as a result of his face to face relationship with God.

I would think that the impact of any great relationship with another person - should show up in our face, in our eyes, in our step, and body movement.

TODAY’S GOSPEL

Let me jump to today’s gospel - while keeping in mind this idea of having a face to face relationship with God. [Cf. Matthew 18: 15-20.]

The gospel tells us that sometimes we don’t get along with each other or with the community. The gospel tells us that sometimes we have to go face to face with each other - with folks we have trouble with. The gospel has the hope that brothers and brothers and sisters and sisters - the whole community - that we’ll all work to live with each other in peace, that we’ll pray with and for each other, that we’ll respect each other - face to face.

Who are the people in my life that I should be in communion with face to face with? Whom should I be having a face to face relationship with because we want to get along better with each other.  When was the last time we were looking - really looking into the eye of another? 

Jesus said we can tell a lot by the eyes. I think we know this, but ….

Maybe we are neglecting - our brothers and sisters - walking right by them every day.

I know I need to hear this message.

EYE TO EYE, FACE TO FACE

As I think about all this, I know I need to think more about communication and communion with others.

I think that I think better, when I’m trying to say something to another - and I don’t look them right in the eye - face to face. - because that sometimes gets in the way of what I’m trying to communicate or figure out. I’m not sure about this - and the whole process of communication. It’s a lifetime tennis match.

How about you? How do you communicate best? How about cell phone to cell phone, e-mail to e-mail, smart phone to smart phone. Is there better communication going on when people see each other on their phones?

A test would be: what color eyes does the other have?

I remember I took an old photograph of my mother from way back and brought it to Macy’s to have them enhance it. I wanted them to remove a person in the picture - so it would just be a picture of my mom. So I wanted to fix it up, have it framed  and then give it to my mother for Mother’s Day. It was a sepia colored photograph.

So I went to the counter and the lady asked if I wanted the picture colored.  I didn’t know they could do such a thing.

The lady at the counter looked me the eye and asked, “What color is your mother’s eye.

I had no clue.

So she said, “I’ll make them yours.”

To be honest,  I  didn’t even know what color eyes I had.

I gave the picture to my mom.

When my sister Mary looked at it, she said, “Mom doesn’t have green brown eyes.”

CONCLUSION

For starters, when I’m looking at some one, I need to look at them face to      face, see what color eyes they have.

And - Ooops! Does I know what color eyes God has?
August 16, 2017



SUKHA  AND  DUHKHA

Life is both sukha and duhkha….
Pleasure and pain ….
Sweet and sour ….
Easy and difficult ….
SU [good];  DUH [bad] ….
KHA is the axle hole on your cart.
SU is a good fit; DUH is a bad fit.
How to live with both as we
roll down the road of life - now
that is the question both
Buddhism and Hinduism ask ….
What are the things you are 
doing that cause sukha and what
are the things that cause duhkha?


© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017


Tuesday, August 15, 2017


TAKE  THE  STAIRS 

Always take the stairs,
if possible….

Okay, it’s slower. And
you might miss out on a chance
to chat a few blurted words to
someone on the elevator.

But still, always take the stairs.
You’ll  learn a lot more - like
life is steps - and steps teach
things like - a day at a time.

Always take the stairs, if possible….
like in conversion and recovery  -
as we see in Alcoholics Anonymous -
and several spiritual systems.

Life takes steps. It’s a staircase
to many floors - to many doors -
and sometimes we think we’re there,
but we’re not. There are more doors.

So, always take the stairs
if possible….


© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

MARY’S  BLURTS


The title of my homily is, “Mary’s Blurts.”

I assume that I have to make this sermon for this feast of the Assumption shorter than usual - because this Mass calls for the Gloria, 3 readings, the Creed, a collection - and some of you have to get to work.

I assume that Mary was like the rest of us - in that she inwardly and outwardly - blurted out - tiny blurts - tiny - one, two, three or more words -  short sentences  - shorter - much shorter than tweets - during her life.

I assume she thought and spoke in Aramaic and I only know the few Aramaic words in the gospels that Jesus spoke, “Talitha  cum” , “Ephphatha”, “Mammon”, “Hosanna”, “Boanerges",  “Cephas”.

So I imagined some of Mary’s blurts in English - and to make this homily practical - think of what your blurts are  - and what you imagine Mary’s blurts were.

So here are my assumptions for what Mary’s blurts would be.

“Uh oh!”

“What does this mean?”

“Full of grace?”

“A compliment? Okay, now comes the request.”

“Be a mother?”

“How?”

“Okay - be it done to me as you wish.”

“No room in the Inn? What were we thinking?”

“I don’t believe this.”

“Oh my God, so many innocent babies killed.”

“But we don’t know any Egyptian.”

“It’s time to go exit, exodus, go home.”

“Nazareth!  It’s good to be home again.”

“Jerusalem, again, now what?”

“Jesus,  where are you?”

“Why did you do this to us?  We’ve been looking for you for 2 days now.”

“Where did he get this wisdom?”

“They have run out of wine.”

“Listen to him.”

“Me blessed, no? You, yes if you do the will of our Father.”

“That’s sword number 5. Two more to come….”

“On no, they’re going force him to carry his cross up this way to Calvary.”

“Oh no!”

“Come Holy Spirit.”

”Oh my God.”

“My soul magnifies the Lord.”


- O - O - O - O - O - O - O -

NOTES:

Painting on top: The Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner, 1898. It can be found in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.


For these imagined annunciations or blurts by Mary I followed the scripture stories - especially in Luke and Matthew.

August 15, 2017


ASSUMPTION

I assume we all die.

Otherwise this would be a very complicated and congested planet - with a lot of people to take care of.

I assume we all wonder if there is anything after death.

I assume that Christ rose from the dead.

I assume Mary, his mother, also rose and was assumed into heaven - by, because, through Christ the Lord. 

Now those two assumptions are mighty big assumptions - but as St. Paul said, “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then neither has Christ been raised. And if Christ has not been raised , then empty is our preaching, empty too, your faith.” [1 Corinthians 15: 13-14]

Mary’s assumption into heaven is not in the scriptures specifically. And it took the Catholic Church till November 1st, 1950, to declare that Mary was assumed into heaven - body and soul - our hope and Christ’s promise.  Pope Pius XII was the pope who made this declaration of faith. [Cf. Munificentissimus Deus, Pius XII, November 1, 1950.]

The Catholic Church is not saying that Mary is God - or a Goddess - something some people assume we think and believe. The Church is saying because of Christ - we assume by faith that all of us can live forever - after we die - and Mary models this for all humans - she being human not divine. 

_________________________________

Painting on top: Francisco Botticini, The Assumption, 1475.





Monday, August 14, 2017


LESSONS  FROM  A  LIFE: 
SAINT  MAXIMILIAN  KOLBE 


INTRODUCTION

The title of my homily is, “Lessons From A Life:  Saint Maximilan Kolbe.”

We can look at any person’s life and ask: “What are the lessons I can learn from this person’s life?”

I just did a funeral up Bestgate Road a big: at Lasting Tributes. Like every funeral, it got me thinking.

I think every person at a funeral or a loved one - sort of sits there and answers that question. What have I learned from this person _______.

Today, we’re commemorating the life of St. Maximilan Kolbe who died this day in Auschwitz - August 14, 1941.

When we look at a holy person’s life, we can ask that question, “What does this person teach me?”

Since I used the number 3 yesterday in my homily, let me take 3 lessons from Max Kolbe’s life.

GREATER LOVE THAN THIS

The first thing people think of when it comes to the life of Max Kolbe, it’s that he gave his life for another human being.

A prisoner escaped from Auschwitz where Max was being held prisoner. He was one of the many priests who were arrested by the Nazi's. The commandant lined up all the inmates from Cell Block 14 and picked out 10 to be executed. One of the 10 was Franciszek  Gajowniczek. He screamed out that he had a wife and 2 sons who needed him. 

At that Max Kolbe stepped out of line and said, "I want to go instead of this man. I am alone. I am a Catholic priest."

And they allowed this request and 47 year old Max Kolbe was thrown in a cell with 9 others who were being starved to death.  

After 10 days 3 were left, so to get more room a doctor went into their cell and injected them with carbolic acid.

As Jesus said, "Greater love no one has than to lay down their life for their friends."



THE IMPACT OF A SPIRITUALITY

The second thing that hit me was the question of how a specific spirituality hits and forms and impacts a person.

Max Kolbe was a Franciscan.  How much did Franciscan Spirituality impact the life of this priest? 

Those of you who are Third Order Franciscans can answer that question.

Those of you who have made Jesuit retreats or went to Jesuit schools, how did their spirituality hit you?

We have Redemptorists in this parish. How does their spirituality inform and impact you?

Great questions.

FOR OR AGAINST ANOTHER: CHERRY PICKING

My third learning is this: if we are for someone or against someone, we select stuff about that person to criticize them or to build them up.

At the time of Max Kolbe’s process for canonization as a saint, some people brought up the issue of anti-Semitism.

Yes there are some digs at Jews in the newspaper his group put out, but…. They faced this question in the investigation by Rome whether to declare Max Kolbe a martyr and saint or what have you.

I still hear those same “money hungry” comments about Jews till today. Is it jealousy, ignorance, prejudice, or what have you?  

If someone is in favor of Max Kolbe people bring up an organization he was very much part of stress how they helped immigrants, 2/3 out of which were Jewish.

Moreover Francis Gajowniczek - the man whose life - he substituted himself for - was Jewish.

CONCLUSION

The title of my homily is,  “Lessons From A Life:  Saint Maximilan Kolbe.”

In the meanwhile, we can also look at our life - our legacy - our values and our behaviors.
August 14,  2017




TIPPING  POINT

Did you ever wonder what word
or phrase was used before someone
came up with,  “Tipping Point”?

How did Shakespeare or the songwriters
or the world’s scriptures sing it or say it
before Malcolm Gladwell booked it?

Waiting for the dawn, looking out the
window, watching for the phone to
ring or sing or say, “I’m coming home.”

Or do all of us have a breaking point -
a boiling point - when we’re steaming -
when we burst - and the fireworks go off?

We realize we can’t give a sign of peace.
Instead we scream,  “I’ve attended a
Critical Mass and I’m out of here.”

The learning curve sometimes becomes
a circle and our song is, “Déjà vu” or
“Sorry! I guess … you’ll never learn!”

Then again, sometimes it rains in the
desert.  We get an insight. Surprise,
it’s Easter Sunday morning and I’m it.


 © Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Sunday, August 13, 2017

FINDING GOD:

TAKE THREE

INTRODUCTION

The title of my homily is, “Finding God: Take  Three.”

When preaching or writing, sometimes I use the number 3, sometimes 5, sometimes 7, sometimes 2. What works best for you?

If I asked you to tell me 3 places you find God, where would your 3 places be?

Make them specific - instead of in general?

For example, you might answer, “On vacation.” I’d say, “Great. But be more specific.”  Then you might say, “When I am at the beach, I like to get up early and go down to the water and watch the sunrise.” Or you might say, “I sense the presence of God, when I’m on vacation and we’re  playing Monopoly or Risk or Train Dominoes or cards together. 

Everyone is laughing and life is good and family is good.”


So vacation might be one place you find God. Next, you might give as your second place, “In church.” But then I’d say, “Be more specific.” And you might answer, “Well, there I am at Mass. I’m sitting there - sort of spaced out and I’m watching a family, a whole family, together at Sunday Mass.  And it’s not Christmas or Easter. Then you might say, “Our  family is not together or what have you when it comes to Mass. But this family, it looks like they have 3 kids, two in their twenties. It looks like one is there with a boyfriend, probably not a Catholic, because of his hesitation and looking around - when to stand up and when to sit down or kneel. I think of God in moments like that at Mass.” Or you might say it’s a favorite hymn, it gets you into God every time.

Next - for your third place you find God you might say, “I find God every night, when I walk the dog and I look into the deep night sky,  and I pause and thank God for the day - and the night as well.

The title of my homily is, “Finding God: Take Three.”

THREE SCENES

The title of my homily is, “Finding God: Take Three.”

Take three scenes.

Last Tuesday evening Father Luyen Dau - one of our two new priests - was on duty and a call came in at supper from a parishioner. His wife had just died.  Luyen put the phone on voice and I realized he will have no clue where this house was, so I went with him.

We rang the bell and a policeman answered. The husband was in the kitchen crying and all worried and worked up. His wife was on the rug on the living room floor - covered with white sheets. we had to walk around her. That kind of a moment is a God moment. It’s a blessing to be a priest, to be able to help someone in a scene like that.

We prayed over the body and anointed her forehead - after asking the police if that was alright. We have watched too many NCIS reruns to know to ask that.

The funeral was yesterday morning. The death scene triggered a similar God memory for me. I mentioned it in my homily, nor really knowing what to say - as in many a funeral. I didn’t know the story in a 46 year marriage.

I told a story about a guy named Leonard, a plumber in Nanticoke, Pennsylvania. Not Len the Plumber here in Maryland. I was working in a retreat house in Tobyhanna, Pennsylvania, in the Poconos. On Saturday night at this retreat house folks signed up for Eucharistic Adoration - of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. Each retreatant had 17 or   21 or 25 minutes to himself in the chapel. All the lights were turned off in the chapel - with 6 candles on the altar. All else left and the door was closed. I stupidly got stuck in the sacristy and came out into the semi darkness and stepped out of the sanctuary right onto Leonard lying stretched out on the floor in the front of the mail aisle.

I fell into the benches - didn’t get hurt - and said to the body. “Ooops sorry.”
He said, “Okay. I’m just praying.”

The next day after breakfast I grabbed Leonard and asked him, “What was happening?”

“Oh,” he said, “Three years ago we were digging on a side lawn - next to a house. A pipe had broken. I was stupid. We didn’t use a caisson - and my son was down this deep hole -  and the whole thing caved in and my son was buried. “Oh, my God I screamed. Help me God. I grabbed a shovel and jumped into the hole and started digging, digging, praying, praying. My shovel hit my son in the head so I knew I was near him. I was able to get to his face and got him breathing. He was all right.”

Then Leonard said, “When I’m in that chapel or whenever I’m in church, that’s my God, who saved my son and I need to thank him over and over again.”

So that scene the other night of Louise on the floor reminded me of Leonard on the floor. Sometimes people die; sometimes people live. We are in God’s hands.

The second scene took place in Fort Wayne Indiana. I think I mentioned this in a homily - but who remembers homilies. Tom, a priest I worked with, was in the hospital in Fort Wayne. He was in intensive care. A tractor trailer truck hit his car on an icy road, Route 127. Tom was helicoptered to Fort Wayne. I’m visiting him. They need to change him or something, so I’m walking around and this guy seeing me - a priest - says, “Oh good, come with me.”  He took me to his wife, who was also in a coma. I anointed her and prayed over her with him. I found out her name was Dolores and the guy’s name was also Leonard - also 6 foot 4 and 280 pounds at least.

Well, I would drop in to see Dolores every time I went to see Tom - who came out of his coma - and was moved to another floor. After 75 days there, Tom came home - and back to work again eventually.

A year later I got a call from Leonard. They wanted to come and see me in Lima, Ohio. They lived in Indiana - an hour and a half away. We went to Ryan’s  restaurant - where we found out and figured out - I saw Dolores by accident. He called his priest - who said he’d call around and get a local priest to see Dolores - who had had a brain aneurysm explosion. Leonard thought I was that priest.

Dolores is still living. Leonard died. That was a God moment for me. I remember all the scenes - and I especially I remember Leonard telling me about one of the cats they had on their farm. This cat was always getting into trouble. Leonard said he was pain you know where, so we called him “Hemorrhoid.”

The third God moment happened on 3rd Avenue in busy Manhattan, New York City. I’m walking up town and this lady in a big crowd, walking south was walking along with a rosary in hand.

I can still see that lady. She’s still walking down the street. This was a good 25 years ago. Is still alive? Is she still praying her rosary, while walking up and down the streets of her life.

TODAY’S THREE READINGS

Today’s three readings provide 3 God moments.

The first reading from the First Book of Kings has Elijah the Prophet having a God moment. He’s on a mountain and he experiences a powerful wind storm. Rocks start falling.  Next he looks down and experiences an earthquake. Then there is a fire. And our scripture text says, “God is not in the heavy wind, nor is God in the earthquake or the fire.” Then he experiences God in a tiny whispering sound.

Think of your God moments - maybe you experienced God - watching your little baby blowing out two birthday candles for their second birthday - but their breath is not strong enough so grandpa adds his big breath. And it’s a God moment watching the whole scene.

The second reading from Romans talks about lies among other things. How many persons have been forced to prayer, to their knees, to Christ, to God because of lies, false accusations, being cursed or what have you?

The gospel talks about the disciples were on a boat - and a violent storm came up - and they thought they sighed Jesus walking on the water - and Peter screams out for help - and Jesus calls him to leave their boat and come walk on the waters toward Jesus.   Peter does it - he walks - till he loses faith and starts to sink and Jesus challenges Peter to have more faith.

We’re not sure what that was all about - but the early church - once Christ left them - after his death and resurrection - they had to have faith to keep moving and keep the Jesus movement, church, kingdom, community afloat. It’s 2017 and we’re still going.

Today’s 3 readings tell us that many people find God in life’s  struggles more than in most life’s easy moments.

CONCLUSION

The title of my homily is, “Finding God: Take 3.”

Take time this week to look at how and where you have found God in your life. What are your God Moments.

Take 3 - one from the Father, one from the Son, one from the Holy Spirit.


Take 3, one from the Joyful mysteries of life; one from the Sorrowful mysteries of life; one from the Glorious mysteries of life. Amen.
August 13, 2017

Reflections



UNNOTICED

Sometimes we meet the crucified Christ
in the street - in racist screams - and 
sometimes we meet the crucified Christ
coming around the corner in a quiet shrine
in the woods - or in a nursing home room
down the end of the corridor - where an
old lady, silent, unvisited, unnoticed, hangs
in there till her Good Friday death. But
there is resurrection and  hope - because her
Easter Sunday is around the corner as well. 


© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2017

Saturday, August 12, 2017

August 12, 2017

ACCEPTANCE

Acceptance is the gift you want.

It’s a necessary part of patience.
It’s a necessary part of forgiveness.
It's a necessary part of peace making.
It’s a necessary part of understanding.
It’s a necessary part of laughing at life.
It’s a necessary part of putting up with jerks.

Acceptance is the gift to pray for and work on.



© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017





Friday, August 11, 2017

FEAST 
OF
SAINT CLARE OF ASSISI

Today, August 11, is the feast of St. Clare of Assisi ( 1194-1253).









August 11, 2017


STONE OR WATER?

Stone: so secure, so present, 
so solid, so here, so refusing.

Water: so chameleon, so changing, ice,
steam, rain, tea, yet it sees the world.



© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017


Thursday, August 10, 2017




ST.  LAWRENCE 
GENEROSITY 


INTRODUCTION

On this the feast of St. Lawrence, I would like to preach on the theme of generosity - being generous - being a giving person.

LITMUS  TEST

Down through the years generosity is the one criterion I hope to find in another - especially a priest. Is this person generous?

If I am stuck, if I need a job done, who is the first person that I would think of to ask for help from?

I also hope people are not hesitant to call on me.

So if people think of you as someone who is an easy touch for time and work, I think that’s a great compliment.

ST. LAWRENCE

St. Lawrence was a deacon in the early church.  He was one of the 7 deacons serving the church in Rome.  After Peter and Paul, he is the patron saint of the city of Rome.

Along with Pope Sixtus II and a few other deacons, he was arrested around 258 and killed. They killed Sixtus and the others first, then Lawrence. The story is that they tortured Lawrence, so as to get the money they figured he had.

What he used to do as deacon was to collect money and goods for the poor and then distribute it. Evidently, he was a good collector and a good giver and distributer. I picture him like Father George Wichland, who was great in collecting and distributing money and food  to the poor of Baltimore.

When those who wanted his money asked him, “Where is your treasure?” he pointed to the poor.

After Lawrence was killed,  a mob of poor people went to the prefect of Rome and asked for their treasure: Lawrence.

His tomb is one of the 7 principal churches of Rome.

LEGEND

The legend is that he was burned to death on a gridiron. I’ve seen pictures of the gridiron. It’s like a barbecue grill.

When I was in Rome I went to his shrine, where he is buried, and there is a marble grill there, with holes in it, so the blood can drip through into the fire.

One story has it that he was killed by the sword. The tradition that people love is that he was burned to death and with humor said, “I’m done on this side, turn me over.”

The Latin is, “Assum est, versa, et manduca.”

MY JOURNAL

I went to Rome for 5 weeks in 1984 - in hopes of seeing Scala and the Redemptorist holy places. As I was looking thru my journal from that trip this morning, to look up stuff about the shrine of St. Lawrence for this homily, I noticed the names of John Ruef, Tom Forest, and Terry Kennedy. The three of them were Redemptorists stationed in our house in Rome. They were very busy people. Tom Forest was with the international headquarters of the charismatic movement. John Ruef was consultor general at the time. And Terry Kennedy was a professor at the Alfonsiana.

Well, preaching on generosity, all 3 were very generous with their time to me. John Ruef gave me almost 3 out of my 5 weeks in Italy. He took me on buses, trains, taxis, to all kinds of places that I would never get to. He was a great tour guide. Terry Kennedy gave up a bunch of his time to take us the shrine of St. Lawrence as well as other places in Rome that I’m sure he saw a hundred times while taking visitors to Rome to good spots. So too Tom Forest.

That’s generosity. That’s giving. We might not have money. We might not have silver and gold, but what we can give so often, in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, is our time.

TODAY’S READINGS

And I believe that is the theme of today’s readings, chosen especially to fit this the feast of St. Lawrence.

In the first reading, Paul is trying to collect money. He tells the people of Corinth, “He who sows sparingly, will reap sparingly and he who sows bountifully will reap bountifully. Everyone must give according to what he has inwardly decided; not sadly, not grudgingly, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

Today’s gospel ends with the great words, “Anyone who serves me, the Father will honor.” Well, Lawrence has been honored since the 3rd century. Certainly, he served the body of Christ.

CONCLUSION

Hopefully, like Christ, like Lawrence, we will be generous servants - saying to all: "Take and eat. This is my body. This is my time - given to you."

And then add, “I’m not done yet.”