Sunday, January 1, 2017

January 19, 2017


Everyone deserves the best education -
besides computers, math and language.

How about learning to fly a kite?
Playing cards…. riding a bike ….
Body surfing at the ocean ….
Snow and water skiing….

Add also: learning how to eat with
chop sticks, save postage stamps,
try writing something in Arabic,
Japanese, Russian, Greek and Hindi….

How about learning how to use
a microscope and telescope?

How about pottery, origami,
water colors, and calligraphy?

How about coming up with another
listing like this one - things to try,
things to learn, things that will
connect us with rest of the world?

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2017

January 18, 2017


Road signs, mile markers, numbers,
words, letters, 29 A - B  and sometimes C.
How far, how many kilometers or miles
to the place where we really want to be.

Arrows, lots of arrows, yield, speed limits,
work ahead, slow down, I read the signs,
but it’s those inner signs that I’m not seeing,
not noticing, and there are no tickets for that.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2017

January 17, 2017


Rain has a mind of its own,
especially when driving down
a winter highway. It could be
snow. It could unnerve us.
Then again I much rather
have rain on a rainy day in March -
or April - but then again - I love
memories of being a kid,
running in a green field
in the middle of a great
splash of summer rain.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2017

January 16, 2017


The family tree,
so many out flying
branches - up close,
so different from other branches.
Are we called to bear fruit?
Are we called to branch out?
How will we all end up?
Fire wood, part of a house,
a chair, a table, a bed,
or do we still remain
outside - at a distance
from each other - evergreen,
or leafless winter tree….
Hopefully we never forget
the Spring, the Summer
and the Fall - and not get
lost in our emptiness.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2017

January 15, 2017


Paths, that lead to trails,
to roads, avenues, streets,
highways, superhighways,
getting us from here to there,
to everywhere, that is till
we get to cross, rivers,
oceans seas, lakes, till
we get all around the circle
called earth, till we get back
to the point we started from,
home, like going around the
Monopoly Board.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2017



At the end of today’s Second Reading, there is a tiny little greeting or wish from Paul to the People of Corinth to whom he is writing, “Grace to you.” For some reason that word “grace” struck me.

I stepped back or sat back and said, “I don’t think I ever preached a homily on “grace”.  So that’s what I would like to do: a few words on “Grace”


Grace is a theological term -- meaning so much. The basic first meaning of the word “"charis” -- the word used here is “gift”.

So we hear phrases like, “state of grace”, or “amazing grace” or “but for the grace of God, there go I”. Or we hear Mary praised in the Hail Mary, “Hail Mary, full of grace....”

Grace? What does one say about grace in a 10 minute homily?

So I thought about grace and came up with 4 thoughts to think further about.


Grace first all means “gift” or “gifted”, so let’s think about “grace” as gift first of all.

We describe someone as “graceful”. We describe someone as “gifted” -- meaning that they are very graceful and skilled in doing something that is difficult.

An ice skater leaps in the air, spins around, comes down on the ice perfectly and continues gliding across the ice, doing more spins, jumps, leaps, and flow. We say, “She is so graceful.”

Someone puts together a great party or a great meal and she does it so effortlessly. We say she is “gifted”.

So too an athlete -- a cook -- a musician -- person who cuts big chunks of ice into marvelous ice sculptures.

I remember going to Yankee Stadium once with three students -- all novices. The driver, Kevin MacDonald who recently preached a mission here at St. Mary's was 6 foot 4, showed me how graceful a good athlete could be.

I remembered playing against him in a basketball game - 2 against 2. He covered me. I scored zero points. Wow. And this wasn’t even his sport. I had heard that he played Minor League baseball -- a shortstop -- but didn’t make it to the majors, so I kidded him for becoming a priest, because he couldn’t make it as a baseball player. Later I found out that his real sport was hockey. Years later he was inducted into the Boston College Hall of Fame for hockey. 

Anyway back to our trip to Yankee Stadium. We crossed the George Washington Bridge. We were in the middle lane. Someone said, “Kevin, you have to get over to the right lane because the exit ramp for Yankee Stadium is coming up.” He stayed where he was. The middle and left lanes were flowing, but the right lane was backed up for about a half mile, bumper to bumper, with people in cars heading probably for Yankee Stadium. There was a sign, Yankee Stadium -- Next Exit -- something like that. Kevin stayed in the middle lane moving along at a good pace and then, I didn’t even see it happen, he did it so smoothly, he was in the right lane right at the top of the exit ramp. He laughed saying, “You just have to watch the cars till you see a dad turn his head to check the kids in the back seat or to stretch because he is stuck there in traffic. It's at that moment the car ahead of them pulls up a car’s length, and then “Zip. You’re right in there.” 

I witnessing a graceful driver -- a gifted athlete -- making a move and doing it so effortlessly. That’s being graceful. That’s what it means to be gifted.

Thinking about this for this homily, I would stress in this first point about grace that it’s a gift, but one has to work on it.

Every ice skater on the ice probably fell a million times in practice to get to the stage that they can do something very graceful and effortless. Or a running back who seems so gifted has been running, lifting weights, cutting, shifting, a million times in practice, to be able to pull it off in a game.

Point one: grace means gift -- but gifts need to be developed.


Point two would be this. Some gifted people don’t use their gifts. Some people don’t develop their gifts. Some people bury their talents.

Sometimes this is bad and sometimes people pursue other dreams.

I have a nephew who is a great drawer. He can look at a person and sit there with a pencil and draw a perfect picture of them. He also has a tough job on Wall Street that takes up much of his energies.

But I also know a priest. He had been in the seminary with us. Three classes ahead of me. He was a great speaker, leader, singer, play director, athlete. After his ordination he taught preaching -- but somewhere there he started drinking and in his 30’s he became a vegetable. He burnt his brain with booze. You would visit him in our nursing home and he would look at you, follow your movements, but he was shot -- gone. He had talents to burn, and he burned them.

So that’s the second point -- gifts are given for service.


My third point would be the Jesuit idea of “Name the Grace that you need.”

If a person goes to a Jesuit retreat house, they will hear St. Ignatius’ idea of naming the grace that you need. If a person makes a directed retreat in the Jesuit system, when they sit down with a director, the director will ask, “Now, why are you making this retreat? What grace are you looking for? What gift do you need?” And the person might say, “Patience!” Or the person probably will say, “I’m not sure. I don’t know.” Then the director might say, “Okay, begin the retreat with a prayer to God that you discover the grace, the gift, you need.”

And as the retreat moves along, the person usually clarifies the gift they need, the grace they want. Usually it gets deeper and deeper. It might start off as anger at others, but it might deepen to anger at self. The idea is to get down to the foundation of a person.

Now of course, we can’t pray for the gift of a great singing voice or musical ear, if we don’t have one. I often wish I could just sing “Happy Birthday”. You have to have the raw materials to start with, but a person could pray for the grace to stop putting obstacles in front of themselves. My prayer is that I finish things. I am a great starter, but I run out of gas too quickly. Good beginnings. Few finishes. So I need to pray for the grace of stick-to-itiveness and then to work.


Now the first 3 ideas I just gave about grace are fairly clear. I don’t know if presented them that clearly, but they are easy to grasp. This fourth and last point is difficult to grasp and understand. At least that was my experience as I tried to understand it. Maybe I have to go back to the drawing board and just give three points.

Well, I started this, let me see if I can finish this.

The fourth idea would be the teaching that each of us is a gift. Each of us is graced with the gift of life. I am a idea of God. I am a plan of God. I am a gift of God.

Could any of us say, “I am God’s gift to the world.”

We’ve all heard people say that, but it’s behind a person’s back and it’s not a compliment. “She thinks she is God’s gift to the world.”

Each of us is.

I was trying to figure out how to get this across as it appears in the New Testament.

Let me try this way.

Haven’t we all met a teenage kid somewhere that is just nice. The perfect kid. Just a nice young person. She or he is just a delight to be with. Our son or daughter comes into the house with a few of their friends and one of these kids is this kid. The kid stands out. Just a nice kid. We meet her parents or his parents and we say, “You daughter was at our house the other day. What a nice kid.” And the parent sometimes says, “We like to think so.”

What a nice compliment. More. There are some people who are so gracious, so gifted as persons, so nice. They are not doing anything. They are just nice.

I have met old people that way, young people that way, kids that way, adults that way. What I never did, and this just struck me, as I was preparing this homily, was to interview them -- to try to hear their inners, what makes them tick.

I wonder if they just feel amazed at life -- at the gift of being alive.

I wonder if they thank God every morning for another new day of life.

I wonder if they see everything with amazement -- apple skin and the beauty and color of apple pie crust.

I wonder if they see broccoli, even if they don’t like it and don’t take a two spoonfuls for their plate, as very interesting -- the great color green broccoli is -- how it’s like a small tree, etc.

I wonder if they feel loved by God and / or others.

I wonder if they feel special -- but see everyone else as special, amazing, because I see this kind of person as great listeners to older people or they love to stop and play with little kids.

I’ll have to interview these people. I’m sure they will have no clue what I’m after, but I think I do. I want to know what it means to be graceful, full of grace, gifted as a human being.

I heard a talk once that Jesus changed everything the moment he heard from the sky, “This is my beloved son.” He experienced being loved and that’s how he saw every person. Now that’s a grace. Now that’s a gift.


Enough. There are four beginning thoughts on grace. It’s a gift. It needs to be developed. Some people don’t and die. We need to name our needs and desires. And lastly, the key thing is to see ourselves as gifts -- before we even look at gifts like being an athlete or a great cook, etc. Amen

January 14, 2017


“Oh my God,”
he paused and laughed at himself.

He was sitting watching a football
game and this guy makes an almost
impossible acrobatic catch - staying
in bounds - and winning the game.

“Oh my God!”

That’s what he said
and that’s why he laughed at himself.

“Oh my God!
I never realized how many times I say that.”

“Oh my God!
Me a closet atheist
and a Catholic drop out.
I say that all the time.

“Oh my God!”
What an acrobatic catch.
You caught me, God.
You won the game.

©  Andy Costello, Reflections 2017

January 13, 2017


1000, 1500, 2000,
2500, 3000, 5000,
piece jigsaw puzzle.
I need the picture
on the cover to tell
me what I have to
put together. Frame
first as everyone
knows, the sorting
of the colors, sections,
the interlocking - the
odd shaped pieces.
But in time like life,
it all comes together -
but it all takes time,
patience and seeing
the whole picture.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2017

January 12, 2017


Rain… afternoon rain.
Bus windshield wipers
like cymbals in an orchestra,
clearing the whole vista
of the highway in front of us,
the music of the rain….
the regular rhythm of the tires
rolling down the highway,
to wherever we’re going.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2017

January 11, 2017


Eyes coming into a tunnel ….
Eyes coming out of a tunnel ….
That moment to adjust -
that moment of dread -
that moment without knowing
or seeing what’s ahead.
It’s just for a moment -
and then we see where we are.

Eyes, coming into a room ….
Eyes coming into the presence
of people - standing there with
drinks in hand - checking us out….
That moment of wanting to run.
“Get me out of here!”
It’s just for a moment -
and then we see where we are.

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

January, 10,  2017


I’m the hole in the donut ….
I’m the inside of the rubber band ….
I’m the inside of the wedding ring ….
I’m the unanswered phone call ….
I’m the pause after the wind blows ….
I’m the one you’re missing ….
Oh…. I’m the one who didn’t know….

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

January 9, 2017


Jesus still speaks….
His words still sneak
and slide out of the Bible
and find their way into our minds
when we’re thinking of
something else …. like
we’re holding a baby or
a loved one and we hear,
“This is my body.
This is my blood….”
Or “you are the light of
the world - don’t let that light
go out - anywhere, anyhow.”
“He said that?”
Well sort of….

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2017

January 8, 2017


I love fancy jars,
the ones you can’t see
what’s inside them.

one opens it up
and surprise.

there is candy
or old letters.

there a lock of hair
or a wedding veil

And don’t be
shocked, sometimes
it’s grandpa who didn’t
want to be buried anywhere.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2017



Today is the feast of Three Kings or The Epiphany.

The title of my homily is, Light More Light

Its importance varies as a feast day depending on the culture.

For example, in the Greek Orthodox Church and the Eastern Rite Church, light, phos, is very important, so this feast is well celebrated.

Coming out of that tradition, the Ukrainians celebrate the feast of the Epiphany big time.

So too the Spanish. One of the times I was in Puerto Rico the feast of Tres Reyes occurred. What a celebration. The feast of Three Kings is big time. It’s a beautiful feast day. We had a big Puerto Rican dinner. However, the electricity was out for 3 days. We ate and lived by candle light. This made the feast of the Epiphany even more dramatic.

The light of Christ came not only to the anawim, but to all, to the Gentiles, to the people who lived in darkness. They saw a great light.


Light -- the theme of light  -- is often used by photographers, painters, and poets.

See the light!

It’s kataphatic.

And even those who are apophatic like Dionysius, talk about light.

It’s always the idea that there is light on the other side of darkness.


Goethe’s dying words were, “More light.”

“More light!”

What a beautiful two word prayer, “More light!”

Our prayers should be the prayer of Goethe: “More Light!’

If you are looking for a mantra for centering prayer, “More light!”

If you want a 7 syllable mantra, “I am the light of the world.”

Goethe was always reaching for more light.


Woody Allen said, “I’m scared of the dark and suspicious of the light.”

Heinrich Ibsen in his play, Ghosts, [1881] has one of the characters say, “I am half inclined to think we are all ghosts, Mr. Manders. It is not only what we have inherited from our fathers that exists again in us, but all sorts of dead ideas and all kinds of old dead beliefs and things of that kind. They are not actually alive in us; but there they are dormant, all the same, and we can never be rid of them. Whenever I take up a newspaper and read it, I fancy I see ghosts creeping between the lines. There must be ghosts all over the world. They must be as countless as grains of the sands, it seems to me. And we are so miserably afraid of the light, all of us.”  (Act II)

At another time, one of the characters in Heinrich Ibsen’s play, Ghosts, says, “Mother, give me the sun.” (Act III)

Edmond Rostand, author of Cyrano de Bergerac, has a character say in his play, Chantecler, [1907] “It is at night that faith in light is admirable.” (Act II, scene iii)

Archibald MacLeish (1892-1982) in his poem, Voyage to the Moon [1976], wrote,

Now, the fourth day evening, we descend,
make fast, set foot at last upon her beaches,
stand in her silence, lift our heads and see
above her, wanderer in her sky,
a wonder to us past the reach of wonder,
a light beyond our lights, our lives the rising
          a meaning to us,
                    O, a meaning!

Elie Wiesel talks about this town which is in the dark. We are all in this town, in this town, in the dark. We are behind a wall. We are searching to get out. We are all searching for a way to get out into the light.

Kierkegaard talks about darkness and light. It’s in the darkness, in the sorrow, that things are born.

Hegel said the same thing. It’s in the eventide, in the dark, that the great things start. They are born out of the darkness.

Jesus was born in the light, in the night, in a stable. There was no room in the Inn.


The Beatles had a song about “Light across the waters ....” You look over the dark waters of lake or a river and you see a light on the other shore. They are a symbol. Lighthouses along the ocean coast. They are very important. As on the Amalfi coast.

People who take drugs, often tell about the lights they see.  Maybe that’s enduced by the blinking strobe lights that some druggies have flashing as they take drugs.

If Jesus is the light of the world, we can call to him in our fears and doubts and darkness. We can call to him for more light.

And if we don’t want him, we stay inside the dark.


Light is a great theme throughout the pages of the history of spirituality.

Check an anthology of spiritual writings and see how often the metaphor of light shines forth.

And we should expect that. If the spiritual life is a journey, there is obviously going to be times when one has to travel in the dark.

And all of us know that lights on the highway help, also on streets, also in trying to read street names. We also know that trying to move around a house or go up and down stairs in a building, night lights help. Stairs and road and streets can be dangerous, very dangerous, without lights.

We all know what its like to grope in the dark, trying to find the light switch.

So in the spiritual life, light is a symbol for all of us trying to find the light.

We search for light at the end of a dark tunnel.

We need light when we are trying to find our way.

Light then  is a regular symbol in the spiritual life.

We read about the dark night of the soul, the dark night of the senses. Check out St. John of the Cross. Check out Plato’s cave.

When we are searching, we hope we will come to a door.

I am the door.

I am the gate.

I am the way.

At times in life we feel like we are in the dark, crawling along or in walking in the dark and we come to an enormous door in the dark. It’s Christ. Knock and it shall be opened. Seek and you shall find. An enormous door. Stand at the door and knock. I picture this door, an enormous big door, swinging open and in comes light.


Light on the other side of that dark door.


I remember listening on an audio tape a wonderful talk by John McCall. In it he gives a great description of conversion. It’s like being in a room that is very tiny. At first we’re satisfied. Everything is perfect. We are happy where we are.

Then we hear a sound in the corridor and we open up the door and the door slams and we are in the dark. We crawl till we come to another room, enter it and it’s bigger. There we find peace, but only for a while. Satisfaction flows into dissatisfaction. There has to be more to life than this. Then we go through the same process.

Conversion is going from room to room. That’s the conversion process. Each room has a bulb with higher watts. Each room has a bigger bed. Each room has more comfortable chairs. But there is always more. We’re always groping in the dark corridor before we get to a new door.


There was a poem by Thomas Merton in Commonweal, on September 22, 1961. It was on the death of Hemingway.

Merton pictures Hemingway climbing this big staircase with the dead, all marching towards the light. Moving towards the Father. Listen.


Now for the first time on the night of your death
your name is mentioned in convents, ne cadas obscurum.

Now with a real bell your story becomes final. Now men
in monasteries, men of requiems, familiar with the dead
include you in their offices.

You stand anonymous among thousands, waiting in the dark
at great stations on the edge of countries known to
prayer alone, where fires are not merciless, we hope,
and not without end.

You pass briefly through our midst. Your books and
writings have not been consulted. Our prayers are
pro defuncto NOMINE.

Yet some look up, as though among a crowd of prisoners
or displaced persons, they recognize a friend once
know in a far country. For these the sun also rose
after a forgotten war upon an idiom you made great. They
have not forgotten you. In their silence you are still
famous, no ritual shade.

How slowly this bell tolls in a monastery tower for
a whole age, and for the quick death of an unready dynasty,
and for that brave illusion: the adventurous self!

For with one shot the whole hunt is ended!


When my nephew Michael was in the hospital, just before he died, something beautiful happened. My brother-in-law told me this story. They went down to the hospital and little Maryna couldn’t go up to his room to see him. So my brother-in-law told him to turn on all the lights in the room and get up on the window sill and look down. They would drive around the block and look up. There he was in the light, waving. That was the last time Maryna and my brother-in-law saw him alive. What a powerful memory.


Doctor Zhivago was one of those movies that featured light and darkness.

Also Casablanca.

Also a hundred other films.

I remember a scene in some movie where there were kids down in this dark mine working. They were enslaved. And a hero leads them out.

Life offers a call to free others from the dark.

Come to the light.

See the Light!


Years ago there was a very popular book entitled, Life After Life. It tells experience after experience of people who experience light when they are very close to death. Light at the end of dark tunnel’s. Light.

This is quiet real. It’s the great archetype of light.

The people who have walked in darkness have seen a great light. And this


So that’s the heart and soul of this feast day of the epiphany. Jesus is the light of the world. Jesus is the light that takes away the darkness. We are like the Magi, walking, moving, searching, for the light. Wanting to reach our destination. Following the star. Following our star. Pilgrims of light.


So our prayer is: “More Light.”

The words of Goethe, “More Light.”

We are pilgrims like the Magi, searching for the light of the world. Following our star.


Painting on top: Epiphany by Art Enrico