Friday, February 3, 2017



The title of my homily is, “Rubbing Our Throat.”

Today, on this feast of St. Blaise, throats are blessed.

Supposedly St. Blaise helped a kid who had a fishbone stuck in his throat.  Maybe he did the Heimlich maneuver method long, long before Henry Heimlich.  I thought I read that Henry Heimlich only used his method once - and that was near the end of his life - but it’s estimated that at least 100,000 people were helped with his method in his lifetime: February 3, 1920 Wilmington, Delaware to Dec. 17, 2016.

So I thought for a homily to say a few ideas about the throat - touching and rubbing our throat.

So do some thinking about the throat during this  mass and then at the end accept the blessing - at large or one to one - and hopefully, you’ll have some key thoughts about your throat for this mass. 


How many times in a given day, do we put our hand to our throat?

In sign language, besides using fingers for letters, some folks short cut with regular signals. Like cup of tea is [cup] with one hand and move one’s other hand up and down, as if one is trying to get the t-bag to do its job in the hot water. Or rubbing one’s chin - is a sign language symbol for professor. That fits. We can see a teacher - a professor - rubbing his chin before giving a profound answer.

So is there a meaning in sign language for rubbing one’s Adam’s or Eve’s apple? Do people who are deaf pick up body language much better than those of us who can hear?


I would assume that one’s neck - the Adam’s apple area to be specific - is more important than the skin on the back of our knee or under our big toe.

The neck is very significant. It’s a key major highway - a key passage way.

Food and drink pass through our neck.

Air passes through our neck.

Words work with our throat and sound system.

Coughs come jumping out of our chest - up through our throat - and out through our mouth. It’s winter time and we all know this very well.

When someone gets a throat tickle, they say, “I might be coming down with a sore throat.”

Blood goes to our brain through our neck.

The thyroid gland is in here - and there is more and more information on how key the thyroid gland is to people.

It can affect our metabolism, hormones. Specialists have to do tests to see how our endocrine system is working.

We get stiff necks when we’re nervous or up tight.

Paul talked about fellow Jews who were stiff necked [Cf. Acts 7:51.]

Detectives when questioning people and asking questions notice neck swallows. Parents when they think kids are lying,  watching their Adam’s apple as well. They want to know if they should swallow what the other is saying.

Sometimes someone is a pain in the neck.

So when communicating with someone, calmly keep your eye on the other person’s hand - and see what questions get them to rub their neck.

Body language experts say the other is comforting their nerves down - when they are rubbing their necks - or pausing to gather their thoughts - so they don’t say something stupid.  

I was wondering why the first anointing in baptism is to put oil on the other person’s Adam’s apple - or the top of their chest. Why that anointing - and why there?


Enough words out of the mouth.

Chew on some of this - rub your neck - digest some thoughts and when you get the Saint Blaise blessing at the end of the Mass, you’ll have specifics to pray for.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

February 2, 2017


I have notions, assumptions, echoes
about life, about people, about God,
as they move across the floor and wall -
like shadows - in a room - on a February
late afternoon - but like Paul, Christ has
set me free. I’m no longer chained to a wall
in a deep dark cave. I have learned to  know
the difference between shadows and reality.
Okay,  sometimes, I find myself wanting
to return to the fixed security of that cave -
those chains - those dark shadows - to be like
Plato in his rocking chair looking at the walls
of his cave - but Christ - the risen Christ -
the Easter Christ - the fire, the dawn has
dawned. The rock has been rolled back.
The mouth of the cave screams, “Come out.
Come out. Come out! Come follow me!”

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

February 1, 2017


Walking towards the podium, the pulpit,
the microphone, the stage - what is she,
what is he, going to say? What is he 
going to sing? Something I hope that 
tells me about me, that she understands 
anger, frustration, goodness, mistakes,
relationships, life in my shoes, slippers,
mocasins, sins, skin, that she knows
herself, therefore she, he, knows me.
And tell me about God - your experiences,
your moments, your meetings with God?
Now that’s the talk I want to hear. Sing!

 © Andy Costello, Reflections  2017



The title of my homily for this 4th Monday in Ordinary Time is, “Wisdom: Be Attentive. Where Did This Man Get All This?”

It’s kind of a long title. And I was even tempted to add the next line in today’s gospel: “What kind of wisdom has been given to him.”


In today’s two readings: Hebrews 12: 4-7, 11-15 and Mark 6:1-6 - we hear about wisdom.

In the Greek and Byzantine rites of the Christian - as well as the Catholic Church - the priest at the pulpit says, “Wisdom: Be Attentive” as he holds up the Scriptures for the Faithful.

I must have heard that message chanted 25 times before I got that.

“Wisdom:  Be Attentive.”

I mention in homilies at times: Make that your prayer.

When the priest  or the deacon reads the scriptures - and preaches a homily - I think it’s a good inner saying to say to oneself: “Wisdom: Be Attentive.”

Listen up!

Lord, give me some wisdom today - an insight - a challenge. Pour some new wine into this old wineskin. Break open some new ideas and ideals for me.

So that’s message # 1 for today.

“Wisdom: Be Attentive.”


Have you ever found yourself saying about something Jesus said, “Wow! That’s a great insight. Where did Jesus get that insight? What triggered it?

However, I have found out that some people never ask that question, because they see Jesus as God - Divine - and all his wisdom comes from being God - and he had it all from Moment One.

They ignore, leave out the message from the gospel of Luke, “Jesus grew in wisdom, age and grace before God and people.” [Luke 2:52]

I’m glad I was taught to read the gospels and then ask, “What triggered this comment by Jesus.”

So I picture Jesus in the carpenter shop. Some kids come in with their dad. He’s watching them as they start playing a game. I picture Jesus looking at the beautiful feathers of a bird - or beautiful flowers in the field and - who walks by - but someone who is a clothes rack or the front window of a store - screaming, “Hey world, look at me!”

And Jesus laughs comparing humans with birds and flowers. Who are more beautiful?


So there are 2 suggestions on what to do when you’re here for the Liturgy of the Word.

First to pray before hearing the readings and the sermon to say, “Wisdom: Be Attentive.”

And secondly: when listening to the readings, ask, “Where did Jesus or the writer of this text, get this wisdom.”  Like today’s first reading talks about bitter roots.  If you are bitter or don’t like better tastes, pull out the bitter roots in your soul.


Painting on top: John Everett Millais, Christ in the House of His Parents [1849-1850]

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

January 31, 2017


Eggshells, fluorescent tubes,
some high heels, some insect legs,
the second year of marriage, hey,
it used to be the fourth year of marriage.
FRAGILE - that word should be stamped
in red - on the naked skin of every marriage.
It’s a covenant.  Regular checking out
how things are going…. bending, adjusting,
sacrifices, many sacrifices - and working on
about 5 other specific awareness’s
and a marriage can make it to 50
and 60 years - till death do we part - 
that is, if a couple really want 
a lifetime of great love -
to write a great story together.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2017

Monday, January 30, 2017

January 30, 2017


Life is nonlinear - a scribble
at times - unlike the two numbers
and the dash as they call it
on the tombstone. No …
life is bumpy and broken
at times - finally coming around
and coming apart at corners
and there are Frosty roads
not taken which would have made
all the difference. It’s when
I write a poem or look at photos….
It’s when I’m at airports or in planes
I see some of this - and the
rest will take years to figure out.
Sorry. That’s what I know for now.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2017


The title of my homily for this 4th Monday in Ordinary Time is, “What Some People Go Through.”


Last night when I read today’s readings I  said to myself, “Oh no, these are tough and rough readings.”

In the first reading from Hebrews - Chapter 11 - verses 32 to 40 - we hear about women experiencing the death  of loved ones -  hoping for resurrection. We hear about people being tortured, made fun of, mocked, beaten, chained and imprisoned. Some had stones thrown at them. Some were sawed in two. Some were put to death by the sword’s point. Some had to crawl and wander the earth wearing just the skins of sheep or goats. Hebrews says, “They wandered about in deserts and on mountains, in caves and in crevices in the earth.”

The only thing that helped them was their faith - still they were in horrible situations.

So in reading that, that’s why I thought about what some people go through - and I don’t know if we can stomach some of that horror at 6:45 in the morning.

Then in the gospel - Mark 5: 1-20  - we hear about this man who lives in the midst of tombs - and he screams out at night - beating himself with stones.

He’s filled with demons - a legion of demons - till Jesus enters his life and sends the demons into a herd of pigs who  run down a hill and dive into the Sea of Galilee.

Ugh! So that’s why I thought and I kept thinking about what some people go through.

I also kept thinking, “I don’t have it so bad. I don’t have it so bad.”


Two weeks ago some of us were on a cruise to South America for 17 days.  When we were off the ship and on buses for excursions,  I noticed in the big cities people lying against walls or under trees in a park. As Jesus said, “The poor are always with us.”

Seeing the homeless triggers lots of thoughts in me - including guilty - doubly so - when on what I call a “fat cat cruise” - and we visit a city.

When we were on the big wide muddy La Plata River going into Buenos Aires,  I found out this was the river the government took some protesters and opposition leaders up in a plane and dropped people to their death in that river. The so called “Madres de la Plaza de Mayo” - are still pushing and struggling to gain access and information - about what really happened to their sons especially. This happened between 1976-1983.  The numbers killed go from 9,000 to 30,000 kidnapped and killed.


Next ….

When I watching public TV the other day - the day before the Right to Life March in D.C. I heard Representative Chris Smith from New Jersey speaking about the millions of babies killed, ripped apart, murdered just here in the United States - when aborted. Ugh. He’s been a voice for the voiceless in the womb since the 1981.

I was also listening to public radio the next day and I heard about a Hungarian woman in her 90’s - one of the last of the survivors of Auschwitz - who as a little girl - got off the train in Auschwitz with her mother and family.  Her mom was sent immediately to the gas chambers - and this young girl at the time said, “I didn’t cry.”

I didn’t see these things personally, but these moments trigger thoughts about what others had to go through - and still go through around the world.


What to say about any of this violence that people go through?

I don’t know.

Today’s gospel tells me Jesus came into our midst and walked with us in these horrors - and experienced them himself as well - with his death on the cross.

Hopefully, the pain and suffering of others hopefully helps us to become more compassionate and understanding.

Hopefully, we will not add to the cruelty of people towards people.

There is a famous American Speech, called, “The Cross of Gold Speech.”

It was about a time in our country when people fought over having gold and silver backing our paper money.

There is a line in that speech that I have thought about at times. The speaker, William Jennings Bryan, says, “I shall object to bringing this question down to a level of persons. The Individual is but an atom; he is born, he acts, he dies; but principles are eternal; and this has been a contest about a principle

Hopefully when it comes to health care, immigration, abortion, prisons, people’s sexuality, basic human respect, we will be much more concerned for people while at the same time that will be our main principal in life. Amen. 



The title of my homily for this 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A,  is, “Cut and Paste.”


Anyone who has a computer and uses it to do homework knows what “cut and paste” means.

Anyone who writes letters with their computer or iPad knows how to cut and paste.

You simply take a section from here - you highlight it - you cut it - and you then paste it over here. The phrase, the process, comes from before computers, when someone cut something out of one section of writing and put it some other place. Then they glued it or pasted it - nice and neat.

It saved time and work - if you made it nice and neat.

Cut and paste.


This year we are using the gospel of Matthew in Ordinary Time for the Sunday gospels. The scenario is to run the gospels in Ordinary Time on a 3 year cycle: Matthew - Year A, Mark - Year B and Luke, Year C.

This Sunday we have as our Gospel reading the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount.  Jesus went up a mountain, sat down, and began teaching his disciples some of his key teachings.

The Sermon on the Mount goes for 3 chapters in Matthew’s gospel.

There is a theory that some early Christian writer gathered a lot of the sayings and short teachings of Jesus and used it as a list of Jesus‘ teachings for new Christians. It was simply a series of one liners or short messages of Jesus like, “Turn the other cheek.”  “Go the extra mile.” “Love your enemies; pray for those who persecute you.” ”Stop worrying about what you are to wear or what you are going to eat.” “Enter by the narrow gate.”

Today’s gospel reading has the so called, “Beatitudes.”

They are 8 or 9 secrets of beatitude or happiness. “Show mercy.”  “Be a peacemaker.” “Hunger and thirst for what is right.”


Next week we’ll have another section of the Sermon on the Mount - and on and on - in ordinary time - till it’s finished.  Then Jesus will say at the end of chapter 8, “the wise person is the one who builds their house, their future,  on these words. If you do that, it’s like building your house on rock. Then when the storms and floods of life come, your house will not fall down. It’s built on rock. The fool doesn’t go that way.  He or she will be building their house on sand and when the storms and floods of life come, their house will cave in.

That document - what we call “The Sermon on the Mount’  is what some scholars think existed. It’s called by some,  “Matthew Q.”

The scholars, the theorists, say it was written in Aramaic - the language of Jesus - in Palestine - in the first century.

They think Matthew took that document of 3 short chapters - pasted it to Matthew’s first 4 chapters, then pasted that to the rest of the gospel of Matthew - and that’s our present Gospel of Matthew which we have in Greek.


It’s only the year 2017.

Wouldn’t it be great if that’s true and someone found Matthew Q - buried somewhere in the Middle East?

It’s possible. In 1947 they found the Dead Sea Scrolls - and they were Old Testament writings that were over 2000 years old.

In 1945 in Upper Egypt they found buried the so called, Nag Hammadi Library of some 50 texts from the early church - from off shoot Christian groups. They include the so called Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Philip etc. etc. etc. They help us compare gospel texts and how they were used.

So we never know.


I have a theory that each us has a library - a short library of sayings and teachings - buried inside of us - in our mind.

Some teachings, slogans, sayings are from our moms and dads. Some are from school teachers. Some are from ourselves. Some are from Jesus.

I remember being on a retreat with a group of women once and we did an interesting exercise. We asked the group to take 10 minutes of silence and come up with one saying from your mom or dad - something they told you over and over again when you were a kid - and you go  by that teaching today.

As each woman explained a teaching or a saying from their mom, like have an extra clean set of underwear when traveling, in the trunk of your car, just in case.  Moms were forever taking about moms who insisted on their kids make their daily bed. If they do, they will have a neat life. Be careful of your friends.

I also think we all have a saying or two from Jesus. It’s been cut and pasted into our life.

My favorite bible text is, Galatians 6:2. “Bear one another’s burdens and if you do, you’re fulfilling the law of Christ.”

I was sitting on my stoop in Brooklyn once - as an adult, while. The next generation - were playing stick ball on our street.

My nephew Michael is standing there - when he spots an old lady going by with her shopping basket on wheels.

Michael screams out, “Time out!” and runs over and helps the old lady get the basket to her steps. He pulls it up the stairs. She opens the door and he pulls her wagon into her house.

He comes running out screaming, “Play ball!”

There it was, my favorite Bible text, being acted out by a teenage kid.


Enough already….

I think this is purpose of Catholic schools and religious education - to plant the word of God inside people’s soul - and cut and paste as time goes on - better texts.

Talk to each other. Find out favorite Bible texts or sayings and ask which one’s work. If something someone says is helpful - cut and paste it into your life as well. Amen. 
Grandpa had a stroke.

He lost his ability to speak.


 So he had a lot of rehab ahead.

His 5 kids got him a first floor room at Renaissance Nursing Home - just 5 miles away for 4 of his kids - who had stayed in the area.

As to his 23 grandkids - now they were scattered all around the country and all around the world: from Afghanistan to Austin Texas to New Zealand.

Not being able to speak - not being able to write - it was very difficult to understand what grandpa was thinking.


When he tried to speak, when he tried to answer questions from his kids and grandkids - sometimes he would cry in frustration.  His hand would sometimes become a fist as he banged it against his mattress.

This wasn’t their dad. This wasn’t their grandfather.

Down through the years his kids and grandkids liked to ask him questions about what it was like growing up and what have you. Before the stroke he was a great story teller; after the stroke, it was basically silence - as if a great wall went up and all around and surrounded him.

Three months into his time at Renaissance, his kids decided to clean up his house back home It was empty, for the most part. Mom had died years earlier.

In the basement, surprise, surprise, they found in a room boxes and boxes and boxes of drawings - kids drawings.

There were also clay plates made by kids - as well as ceramics - all made by his grandkids.

There were fake flowers. There were stick figures made out of pipe cleaners. There were pictures cut out of magazines.

And most of the crayon and magic marker drawings had the name of kid who drew them or created them.

Grandpa learned that kids love to put their names on the bottom of their drawings.

They brought one of the boxes - filled with kids’ drawings and kids’ writing - and asked him why he had saved all these drawings.

He couldn’t answer.

But each picture got him to smile, laugh - make hand gestures - but nobody knew why he had saved all these creations.

So the boxes went back home and back into the basement.

I would like to be able to report that grandpa got better - but he didn’t.

Grandpa died - and he was to be buried in the local cemetery - next to mom - who had died 10 years earlier.

Luke - a Lieutenant Colonel - and grandpa’s oldest grandson - came back from Afghanistan for the funeral.

He asked if grandpa still had all those drawings he kept down in the basement.

His mom said, “Yes. Do you know about them?”

“Yeah,” said Luke.

“Well, what about them?”

“Oh,” said Luke.

“I once drew grandpa a picture of a purple tree.”

He said, ‘Thank you!’”

“But it didn’t go up on the refrigerator door.”

“In fact, he threw it out.”

“The next time we visited grandpa I asked to see my purple tree. I was quite proud of it.”

“Purple was the only magic marker color I had in my school bag.”

“At that I noticed that Grandpa -  put on this ‘Uh oh!’ face.”

There was silence.

“Then he said, ‘I lost it.’”

He saw that I was disappointed.

“Later, when we were leaving to go back home, grandpa called me over and said, ‘I lied. I’m sorry. I threw out your purple tree.’”

“I didn’t know what to say or to do. I didn’t know grandparents could lie.”

“So I gave him a big hug.”

“Well, about 10 years later, grandpa said to me. “Thank you again for that purple tree you gave me years ago. I learned my lesson. I kept every drawing every one of you grandkids give me.”

The mystery was solved.

Luke then said, “Get plenty of duct tape - plenty of scissors - and get all grandpa’s drawings. We’re going to the funeral parlor.”

That afternoon, that evening, when people went to the funeral parlor - they experienced a celebration of grandpa’s family - all 23 of his grandkids  - and their wives and husbands - and all his friends.

When they walked in - the walls of the funeral parlor were filled with hundreds and hundreds of kids’ drawings and pictures - with their names on it.

It was unique. It was a surprise. It made the newspapers. It got everyone to cry - tears of joy and smiles.

Ooops and one nice part of the story:  every one of those grandkids wanted their childhood drawings.

Great move by Luke, actually:  at the end of all this - nobody had to clean out grandpa’s collection of drawings.


This was a story I wrote for today's kids' Mass. It was for the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time - A. How this fits in with the readings, it's anyone's guess.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

January 29


Conscious and unconscious stuff….
What we wear - hats, shoes, shirts ….
Colors … comfort … temperature….
Jesus challenged us not to worry
about what we are to wear - and
what we are to eat…. Yet, sorry
Jesus … in a way … we are
what we eat, we are what we wear,
we are what we hear … we’re mimics,
parrots…. mirrors for each other….
Didn’t you test your thoughts
in the marketplace? Didn’t you
ask questions in our temples?

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2017


The title of my homily is, “The Prayer of Thomas, ‘Unless I Can Put My Hand Into His Side, I Refuse to Believe.”

The Thomas I’m talking about is Thomas the Apostle.

So the title of my homily is, “The Prayer of Thomas, ‘Unless I Can Put My Hand Into His Side, I Refuse to Believe.”


That’s a strange prayer - but it’s the prayer, the thought process, the reality of lots of people.

I’m not going to believe - till I have some kind of proof - tangible proof.

Thomas the Apostle made that statement - and Jesus answered that request - by asking Thomas to touch his cuts. [Cf. John 20:27]

Today is not the feast of St. Thomas the Apostle. It’s the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas. So that’s why I thought of Thomas the Apostle.  Then for a homily for today it hit me to connect  St. Thomas the Apostle with  St. Thomas Aquinas.


Both saints trigger deep thoughts about faith - and notice both readings for today: the 3rd Saturday of Ordinary time - talk about faith. Hebrews: 11: 1-2, 8-19, today’s first reading talks about Abraham as an example of faith and today’s gospel, Mark 2: 35-41, talks about the sea crossing and a storm hits the boat Jesus and his disciples are in - and in their panic, the disciples wake Jesus up and Jesus asks them, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?”

Thomas is not in today’s gospel.  I’m talking about Thomas the Apostle because I  sense that Thomas is put in the gospels to tell us - and to teach us - about faith - especially the struggle to have faith.

Thomas the Apostle teaches us that we can have doubts - a key ingredient in the faith discussion.

Thomas the Apostle tells us that some people need to put hands on touchable realities - in order to move on to untouchable beliefs. As Thomas the Apostle put it, ‘Unless I Can Put My Hand Into His Side, I Refuse to Believe.”

Next, I want to point out that Thomas Aquinas is like Thomas the Apostle.  I love Thomas Aquinas basic axiom, “Nothing is in the intellect that was not first in the senses.” [Nihi est in intellectu quod non fuerit prius in sensu.”]

That’s why I see Thomas Aquinas to be like St. Thomas the Apostle. Both go from the known to the unknown. You can see that loud and clear in Thomas Aquinas and his classic proofs of the existence of God.

I’ve been using those proofs all my life: especially the argument from seeing stuff - with one’s senses - and then moving on to the Maker of Stuff.  See a chair; know there is a chair maker. See the stars; know there is a star maker.

I sometimes add to the stars comment that we have only got as far as Mars and the Moon - and we don’t have a ladder that can get us to touch the stars.

As in today’s first reading - Hebrews 11: 1-2, 8-19 - Thomas Aquinas is like Abraham and Thomas the apostle, growing in faith and moving from the sand and the stars to the God of the beyond.

Okay, in the gospels, Jesus tells us that those who believe - who have not seen - unlike Thomas the apostle, they are the blessed ones.

For both Thomas - Aquinas and the Apostle -  the next step is to make the great act of faith, “My Lord and my God.”


I don’t know about your families, but I’m noticing in my family, more and more drop outs from the faith.

It affects me. It disappoints me.

Moreover, it’s been my experience, when a person gives up on our faith, it has an effect on the rest of us.

It also affects me when I see people in church - in prayer - whether it’s Sunday Mass - or just sitting here in the afternoon, behind a pole.

When priests left the priesthood, I understand, but it still affected me.


I remember a guy whose marriage I did in 1968.  He decided to take instructions in the Catholic faith, but he couldn’t believe in God.

After a lot of sessions together, he made the act of faith, that there is a God - based on the faith of people who went to church - and only on that. He said, “They have to be here for a reason.”

That was the first time I realized concretely, that the faith of others can increase my faith.


I’ve also had an increase in my faith because of people like St. Thomas Aquinas.

His great writings - his Summa - his summaries of our faith - have certainly helped me.

His very clear principles certainly helped me.

In other words open up our eyes and see and open up our ears and hear all that God is and has done for us.

Let what we sense move us to what is beyond our senses.


Painting on top: Doubting Thomas by Caravagio [1573-1610]