Saturday, February 25, 2017

February 25, 2017


He wanted walls
and the wind stirred
the soil and the dust flew
over the border - laughing.

He wanted walls
and the water became
mist and became rain and the
Pacific laughed becoming the Atlantic.

He wanted walls
and the crowds laughed
and told him his mother and
his wife were from the other side.

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Friday, February 24, 2017

February 24, 2017


Life is a yo-yo -
up and down,
up and down….
Rock the cradle....
Walk the dog....
Around the world....
Sometimes there are knots,
and sometimes yo-yos are left
on a kid’s bureau, then slide
into the top drawer,
forgotten for a while - 
only to be picked up again
in another season… some 
other time.  Amen.

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017



Today’s first reading from Sirach 6: 5-17 focuses on the theme of  friendship.

In this text, Sirach or Ben Sira,  looks at several aspects or issues when it comes to considering this important topic of friendships.


The first issue is the difference between acquaintances and friends.

Today’s text says, “Let your acquaintances be many, but one in a thousand your confidant.” (Verse 6:6)

The English of this Greek  text from Sirach uses the number  “thousand”.  I would like to know what the Greek text has, but I couldn’t locate one at present. I know they found in Cairo, Egypt, between 1896-1900, a Hebrew text of Sirach from the 12th century. However, I couldn’t get my hands on a Hebrew Text either. As you know, Sirach is not in most Jewish Bibles. So I don’t know what Hebrew word they use for 1,000.*

But think of that word 1000. How many times have we heard people say, “I have thousands and friends”? I find that significant, because people juggle and toss the word “friend” around an awful lot lately.  I’ve heard various people - when discussing the word “friend” say things like what Sirach says.  I hear him saying: we have lots of acquaintances - but in reality a few friends or confidants.

I like the statement that if we have 5 friends in a lifetime we are lucky.

I don’t tweet or text - or use some of these social media things - other than e-mail - but I know the word “befriend” flows freely. I have heard people say that they have thousands of friends - because they invite all kinds of people into their chat rooms and Facebooks pages, etc. etc. etc.

So that’s the first message I take from Sirach - the difference between acquaintances and friends.


The second issue Sirach tackles is the horrible experience of a friend who becomes an enemy.

I would add that experience tells us loud and clear the difference between an acquaintance and a friend. The degree of hurt tells us the quality of a relationship - whether this other is a friend or an acquaintance.

If it really hurts, then we’re talking more about a friendship - or an assumed friendship more than an acquaintance.

Sirach describes this person as one who talks about a fight we’ve had with them or whatever - to our shame.

Jesus knows this one very well - with his friend Judas who betrays him.

Today’s gospel talks about divorce - the horrible experience when 2 people who hopefully were best friends - had their marriage fell apart - and they often become enemies. Sirach stuff is good stuff to reflect upon when reflecting upon one’s marriage.


Sirach talks next about shallow friends and friends who are there in tough times - especially when we need them. When things are going great, great; when things are going sour, see you later alligator.

In fact, when things are going bad for us,  this type of friend turns against us or avoids us.

Someone said, “False friendship, like ivy, decays and ruins the walls it embraces; but true friendship gives new life and animation to the object it supports.”

Ben Sira wrote his stuff around 180 B.C.  It’s not in the Jewish Bible, but it’s in ours. As one reads today’s first reading, it sounds like stuff  that could be written in our time. It’s stuff that lasts - and that’s probably why it lasted.


The title of my homily is “Friendship.”

I urge you to jot down 3 to 5 life time friends.

They are home to us - a sturdy shelter to rest under  as Sirach puts it. They are a treasure - to cherish.


·       [As an aside - or a distraction - I want to sneak in mention of a book I read last year: Sacred Treasure -- The Cairo Genizah by Rabbi Mark Glickman. I found out that a Genizah is an attic or big room in a synagogue where they sort of “dump”  old sacred writings or anything Jewish in print. The one in Cairo was a gold mine of old Jewish writings. Between 1896 and 1982 - but most early on - they found 4 texts of Sirach in Hebrew from the 10th to the 12th centuries - plus fragments. Scholars say Sirach was written in Hebrew by Ben Sira. Then his grandson - according to the Translator's Foreword - says he translated it for the Jews in Egypt. I'm assuming that translation was into Greek.  I’d also recommend checking out information on Genizahs. There is another book about them. This one is not called, “Sacred Treasure” but  “Sacred Trash”. In the Catholic Church people often bring a shopping bag containing old prayer books of someone who died. The practice is to burn them - which Jews are not supposed to do - hence the Genizah. It’s my experience that Catholics sometimes dump them in a rectory side room and run.]

Thursday, February 23, 2017

February 23, 2017


Time is not a tick, tick, tick,
the moving of a dial through
a circle or the jump of some
digital numbers on a clever
clock every 60 seconds.

No, no, no…. Time is moments,
memories, interactions, specific
significant events - mysteries we
spend so much time on - trying to
figure out - just what a time meant.

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

February 22, 2017


Approaching the edge
of an egg - white or tan shell,
I realize skin is easier.
It bends, stretches, survives
plops on couches or hard boiled seats.
Not egg shells. They have no face,
no eyes to read - no ears to hear.
So I prefer to approach the edge
of another - to sit with them - for more
than a one minute egg time frame  -
to listen - to not be egg shell fragile -
but to be me - even though I’m thin
skinned and crack so easily. Smile!

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Tuesday, February 21, 2017



The title of my homily for this 7th Tuesday in Ordinary Time comes from  today’s first reading: “Fear the Lord.”

Sirach - in our first reading - has a  4 part litany about fearing the Lord:

You who fear the LORD, wait for his mercy….

You who fear the LORD, trust him….

You who fear the LORD, hope for good things….

You who fear the LORD, love him….


And two more times in today’s first reading we hear about fear.

When you come to serve the Lord, stand in justice and fear….

Trust in God and “keep his fear and grow old therein.”


As you know all through the scriptures we hear “fear the Lord” and then we also hear, “Do not fear.”

Which is it?

Obviously it’s both - but this morning I’m looking at the fear issue.

In preparing this homily last night, I simply typed into the search box of Google, “Fear the Lord.”

I got some stuff to think and wonder about - stuff we’ve all heard in sermons. I’m sure we have thought at different times in our life about the complexities of fears and phobias.

For starters I heard the following:

There are two kinds of fear: good fear and bad fear. 

Bad fear is when we become paralyzed  - dreading God - and others and also ourselves. It’s wipe out fear. It’s too much fear in a given situation.

Good fear is prudence - pause -  aware that we ought to be hesitant of the seriousness of a situation and the consequences that could come out of our actions. Translation: think before we act. Pause before proceeding. Breathe.

Next I heard the practical teaching that Fear of the Lord is just a beginning - a first reaction. Fear of the Lord is a gift of the Spirit - the first of the seven classic gifts of the Spirit. 

So the first realization is that fear can begin things - but we need to move beyond the fear.

The two classic scripture texts are: the fear of the Lord is the beginning of Knowledge and fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

A good example of this would be what police sometimes do: bring kids into a jail cell - to see what that’s all about - with the idea of instilling a bit of fear into the fog of their brains - so that they don’t end up there years later.

Or on the first day, week, month of a new job, we better have some good fears to be aware of - and we have dressed for the job.

Then at some point in any relationship or any situation, we need to let go of our fears and move into love - as well as enjoying the job or the relationship or the situation.


So today’s first reading underlines the value of prudent  fear, practical fear, smart fear.

Don’t give a kid who is clumsy the keys to a Mercedes or Lexus.

I remember once I was holding a Boehm Porcelain statue of a bird and I asked the owner who made it, “How much is this bird worth? He  said, “$1,700.” I said, “Here, take this back from me very carefully.”

So too of anything, a sprinkling on - of some fear - helps.

I love e.e. cummings saying, which fits in right here, “be of love a little more careful than of anything.”

So too marriage - a little bit of fear - the high number of divorce statistics - hopefully keeps a couple aware of the need for good ongoing communication in one’s marriage.

So too preaching. I assume fear of criticism - as well as people yawning or looking at their watch - adds at least 5 more minutes of preparation to a sermon.


So too in our relationship with God.  St. Alphonsus told his Redemptorists that fear works in preaching - but it doesn't last. Love does.


Painting on top: "Fear" by Robert Vickrey [1954]

"In 1948, Robert Vickrey found a photograph of two nuns from the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul. He was fascinated by the image and created many paintings of nuns in austere and often sinister surroundings. In Fear, Vickrey used egg tempera paint to create a detailed view of a barren landscape, in which a nun appears to be running in distress. He once claimed that his paintings did not tell stories, but this image suggests that the nun, symbolizing purity and Christian charity, is fleeing from what Vickrey described as 'the rubble and erosion of contemporary civilization.'" (Mecklenburg, Modern American Realism: The Sara Roby Foundation Collection, 1998)
February 21, 2017


Instead of gathering dust in the basement
of my mind, why not take a week or two
to gather the key works of my life? Dust
them off. Gold paint a frame or two. Then
hang them on the walls of my upstairs
living rooms. If old enough, then announce
to myself: “This is me. This is my life. More.”

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Painting on top:   Rossetti and Watts Dunton 
at 16 Cheyne Walk, by Henry Treffey Dunn, 1882

Monday, February 20, 2017

February 20, 2017


Subjects can get crazy, yell, move and
mood in and out of conversations and
be confusing when connecting with them.

Objects are easier to turn to: wine,
ice cream, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
and things, things, things. But....

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Sunday, February 19, 2017

FEBRUARY 19, 2017


Why is it that restaurant doors
that can be seen from so many
seats in the house - get every
person in every seat in the
house to turn to see who just
came in the door? Isn’t anyone
interested in “What’s to eat?”

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017



Once upon a time a man came up with a novel idea for a pet shop.

His unique idea ended up making him millions and millions of dollars.

His idea became so popular that he had a chain of these pet stores all across the country. You could see them everywhere: “N AND G Pet Shop.” You could find one in the biggest shopping centers as well as small ones.

He was a success. His idea was very unique.

And it’s strange and a surprise that his pet shops were so successful, because they only sold two pets: one was called a “Nice” and the other was called a “Grudge”.

The Nice were nice and furry, soft and cushy. You would fall in love with a Nice as soon as you saw one. It was so warm, so cuddly, such a gentle, loving animal.

In other words, there was no contest. You didn’t have a choice. As soon as you walked into a N And G Pet Shop and saw a Nice, you had to have one.

So everybody wanted a Nice, especially in comparison to a Grudge.

On the other side, the Grudges were ugly, skinny, scrudgy, scraggy. They were angry looking animals. They stayed there cowering in the corners of their cages. But if you came close to their cages, they would always snarl at you or anyone and everyone who walked over to look at them in their cages. Their porcupine like hair stuck out like so many warning needles: “Don’t even think of coming near me.”

They were just the opposite to the Nice who would be leaning up over the edges of their boxes as soon as you walked into a N and G Pet Shop.

That’s right. You got it. The Nice were in open simple cardboard boxes  open at the top - while the grudges were kept in steel tight locked cages.

So obviously, everybody who came to the pet shops would always buy a Nice and never buy a Grudge.

And obviously, somebody, somewhere, sometime had to ask the obvious question: why then are they selling Grudges when nobody would ever buy one? Why not just sell a Nice?

As it always happens, a newspaper editor asked one of her  reporters, to do a story on these N and G Pet Shops and their phenomenal success.

So on Monday morning, new newspaper reporter, Jane Harris, with pad and pen and tape recorder, headed for a local shopping center. She had the things she wanted to ask about jotted down on her pad. “1) 2) 3) 4) 5) .” Having heard about N and G Pet Stores in talking to people and how they were selling just two pets and what they were like, Jane figured the secret of their success was just that. It was like sort of like, “Good Cop / Bad Cop”, “Bait and Switch”. People are always coming up with unique ways to make money.

So her newspaper article was already being written in her mind as she walked into a N and G Pet Shop. She posed as a customer.

She wondered if the success of these nation wide pet stores was in the contrast. Have the Grudges up there for sale and everybody buys the expensive Nice.

As she continued her investigative reporting— as she continued to write her article for the newspaper - she began to have more questions than answers.

What's the theory here?

So she went into several more of the N and G Pet stores at random.

In every story there would be the long line - but always on the side of the store where there would be the Nices —far away from the other side of the store where there would be the Grudges.

Obviously, people felt much safer on the Nice side.

Something felt funny!

She wondered why there were so many Nices. How could multiply that fast?

She went back to a few of the same stores - a few times - and even though she held her distance, she noticed that the Grudges were not the same ones who were in the cages she visited the day before.

A major question hit her: Could it be that the owners were selling more Grudges than Nices?


So she began to hide in the parking lots of shopping centers where they had these pet shops. She would see cars coming at night and people would get out and look both ways and take out of their cars a cardboard box—go back into the store and come out 10 minutes later with a cage.

They were trading in the Nices for Grudges.

Sometimes people would go into a store and come out with a Grudge in a cage.

Next she talked with the owners and finally someone said, “The Grudges are animals that people keep wanting, keep feeding. The Grudges can be use to protect you when someone attacks or hurts you. They can protect you when you’re angry.

So to be honest, we have found out people rather have a Grudge than a Nice.


Once upon a time a man came up with a novel idea for a pet store.

His idea became so popular, so unique, that he opened up these pet stores all over the country.

It became a chain store business.

And they became so successful -- perhaps because these pet stores were so unique.

They sold 2 pets. Just 2 pets.

The first pet was called a “Nice”. It was an unique pet. It was nice so it was called a “Nice”.

A Nice was a furry, cushy, cuddle, warm little animal. If you walked into one of these pet stores and saw a Nice, you would automatically want one.

This would happen especially, because the other pet was a “Grudge”.

A Grudge was skinny, had porcupine like hair, was scrounge and scraggly, cowering, always backed up against the cage wall furthest from a viewer.

But the Nice was always in the edge of his box, not a cage, with its paws up on the sides, like hands, looking at each customer with a bright smile and a pawshake.

The Nice always had a nice smile and looked right at you.

And the people going into the pet store always walked out having bought a Nice.

Who would want to buy a Grudge, especially because these stores were always filled with people.  How could you walk in and buy a Grudge?

Well, time went on and money rolled in and the owners of the Pet Stores kept on making money and more money.

Well, as always happens, a reporter got the idea to do a story on these pet shops and why they were so popular.

So he visited all the Pet Shops and as he stood there watching the crowds, while he stood there seeing the Nices on one side of the store and the Grudges on the other side, he started to notice that people walked out with a box with a Nice in it and never a cage with a Grudge in it. He wondered, why were these stores selling Grudges if nobody ever bought one.

That intrigued him.

So he did some more undercover investigation.

He went to as many of these “Nice Pet Stores” as he could and he would stand on line - always to buy a Nice and then when he’d get up close to the counter, he’d look at his watch and go semi out loud, “Oh no,” snapping his fingers and then head out of the store, saying “Sorry” to the customers behind him as he made his way out of the store. They would all smile, glad that they would be served that much sooner.

That much sooner they would  be walking out of the story with a nice Nice.

He noticed people always bought a Nice and they always had enough of them in the store and nobody would buy a Grudge.


It was the same in every store. People only bought a Nice. They never bought a Grudge.

“Why are they selling Grudges then? Why? When nobody is buying one? Why And why are there always more Nices and few Grudges, if they are selling only Nices.”

And then one day, he snapped his finger. He had the answer. It was so simple.

Put the ugly Grudges in the store on one side and put the nice Nices on the other side and people will always buy a Nice because who wants to own a Grudge?

It was the basic principle in advertising: Use Contrast.

This is much better than that, so I’ll buy this.

So he began writing his article and just as he was finishing it, he said to himself, “Wait a minute? Something is still wrong.”

That afternoon he was in one of the Pet Shops that he had been in a few times and there was one Nice there that he thought he had seen before.

Was it the child of a Nice? Was it a twin? Are they being cloned?

So the next day he went back to a Nice pet store and studied the Nices.

He wanted to go over to the Grudges - but he hesitated because the thought everyone in the store would be loking at him. They would be judging him.

For a whole week he kept on going back for 3 weeks and sure enough there were the same Nices he had seen earlier.

Something is funny here.

So one night he went back to the shopping center and parked his care and turned off the lights and waited.

Every once and a while a car would come into the Shopping Center Mall and drive slowly to the back.

5 minutes later the car would leave just as suspiciously as it came. Then 15 minutes later another car would come and do the same thing -- going around to the back. So he got out of his car and silently and sneakily snook back to the back. He got himself behind a dumpster not far from the Pet Shop back door. In the shadows he waited. Sure enough another car came. A man got out carrying a cardboard box. He was bringing back his nice. And 3 minutes later he came out with a Grudge in a cage.

What! What’s going on?

He had the beginning of a great story.

They were trading in their Nices for a Grudge.


This triggered in the reporter all kinds of questions. All kinds of wonderings. He needed to do more research.

And that’s what he did.

He wrote down the license plate of every car that came back at night and then would check out who they were.

He discovered they were everyone.

And he began asking Grudge owners about their Grudges.

And people would finally open up and say that it was much easier to keep a Grudge than keep a Nice.

You have to be Nice to a nice. But you can yell at a Grudge or you can take care of your Grudge.

And on second  thought, it is much easier to feed your Grudge and nurse your Grudge. 

it’s too much to keep a Nice.

It’s hard to always be nice, be like a Nice, keep a smile, reach out to everyone.

“Then people will use you. People will expect a lot from you. But Grudges are better and bitter. You can use them to protect yourself when people want to use you. 



The title of homily for this  7th Sunday in Ordinary Time is, “Cherish No Grudge.”

CNG: “Cherish No Grudge.”

That mini-commandment can be found in today’s first reading from the Book of Leviticus - Chapter 19: verse 18. “Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against any of your people. You shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”

Evidently, the author or authors of Leviticus saw what grudges sound and look like and what they did to people - and posted grudges are dangerous.

So too Jesus, in today’s gospel. He is telling his disciples how to deal with anger, revenge, grudges. Stop poking and punching and slapping other people in the eye or face or cheek. Go the extra mile with others - friends, enemies, borrowers, and people who love to sue. [Cf. Matthew 5:38-48.]

So that will be the stuff of this sermon. I divided it up into 3 rough parts:
What is a grudge?  How much do they weigh? How to get rid of them?


They are the lingering thoughts and feelings from hurts - or setbacks - or attacks - or the bad stuff that happens to both good and bad people.


Grr sounds are not good sounds - coming out of the mouth of grizzly bears or angry people. Grudge, grumble, gripe, grr.

Grudges - we put them in our back packs - on our backs - or in the back of our mind - and they show up on our face - grimaces instead of smiles - especially when so and so or such and such shows up. 


I was thinking last night as I was writing this homily that a good question about a specific grudges could be: how much does it weigh?

Get a clean piece of paper - or line up a clean page on your computer screen. On the center top - in big print - all capital letters - put the word, “Grudges.” Then on the top left hand corner put 100 pounds - then below that about 7 spaces down - 75 pounds - then below that 50 pounds - then below that 25 pounds - then near the bottom - put 5 pounds.

Next looking at our life - at our grudge history - put down at least one 100 pound grudge - a time when we were really hurt or angry - or devastated - and we were talking - screaming - crying inwardly - for a while afterwards.

We had a grudge….

It could have been a divorce. We were cheated on. Or our parents broke up. Or we caused a problem and we have a grudge against ourself for being so dumb or selfish. It could have been a death. Our child died suddenly or drowned and we have at least a 100 pound grudge with God.

Looking at our life, name a few 100 pound grudges. If we have a good marriage, do this together - but in the morning. Growling grudges can affect our sleep.

Then a 75 pounder. We were fired - dropped without warning - or the company moved to Malaysia or Manassas or whatever.

Then a 50 pounder. Then a 25 pounder. Then a 5 pounder.

It could be a comment. It could be dumb night of drinking - when a lot of bad stuff came down.

I think by making a list and then weighing grudges - we can get a beginning look at recovery or letting go.


How to books are the books that people buy.

Would you buy a book entitled, How to Dumb Grudges In the Dumpster?

As indicated, the first step is to name them.

As indicated, the second step is to weigh them.

The third step is to get rid of them.

That’s the tricky part.

Forgiveness does not mean forgetting. Sometimes that happens easier because we have forgiven ourselves, our God or another.

Forgetting is dementia.

Today’s first reading and today’s gospel, tells us to love our enemies - because that saves eyes and energy - ourselves.

Reflecting on the smartness of not cherishing grudges - or holding onto them too tightly - is a good practice.

We see little kids walking around cherishing their teddy bears.

Lots of adults are walking around cherishing pet alligators of different sizes and shapes.

Mention someone’s name or some family situation and that alligator in their arms - jumps out of their mouth and into the conversation.

Go down to the swamp and let those alligators go.

Buddhists call them hot coals. As the Buddha said, “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”

So I’m saying here, “Throw them along with your alligators into the river or the swamp.”

Question: can the human mind let go.

Answer: sometimes yes and sometimes no.

I found something a Jesuit priest, Father James Gill, a psychiatrist, doctor, and priest, said a good 20 years ago to be very helpful.  He was giving us a workshop on stress. He quoted the work of a doctor in California who tells people who hate lines - especially long lines - to always pick the longest line when they go into a bank. Then when you get up to the front - get off that line - and go back and get on the longest line.

Then when you’re on that line, try to name all the names of all the kids you remember from your 8th grade - or senior class in high school - or what have you.

It works. I’m not a Type A driver or person, so I never minded what line I got into while driving up to toll booths. I never got E-ZPass - but I thank those who got them. They make the far right toll booth - my favorite - that much easier. Yet I’m reporting that I never minded lines - but a lot more after Jim Gill’s stuff about stress and lines or what have you.

Last week while waiting in the dentist’s office, I was going through all the air plane flights I’ve been on.

So tricks like that can help.

What I’m reporting here is to see the wisdom of  the mini-commandment about not cherishing grudges. That was in today’s first reading from Leviticus. Then there was the wisdom of Jesus about not getting anger and not getting even. Practicing these virtues can give us a greater freedom from grudges.

It’s what grudges do to us - for starters. That’s the best place to start.

As Malachy McCourt said, “Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”


The title of my homily was, Cherish No Grudges.

And by the way you can do some of those tricks I mentioned about long lines during long sermons. 

ooooooo ------- ooooooo

Drawing on top: How to Draw the Grudge,