Saturday, March 4, 2017

March 4, 2017


LOVE  ME

Wow, there are so many ways
we ask others to love us. “Can
I get you something to eat?”
“Do you need some help?”
“Anytime….” “Give me a call
when you get back?” “I’m here
if you feel down or hurting.”
“Wow you did a great job with
the celebration. Everyone
said everything was perfect.”
“Don’t forget. You’re the best.”


© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017


Friday, March 3, 2017


WE’VE  COME 
A LONG WAY, BABY


INTRODUCTION

The title of my homily for this Friday after Ash Wednesday is, “We’ve Come A Long Way, Baby.”

When scientists, geologists, biologists, and naturalists like Charles Darwin [1809-1882] started to talk about evolution - lots of people screamed. They screamed at the thought we could have come from apes and primitive life.

The game - they played is, “Uproar.” It’s one of those Games People Play that one can find in Eric Bern’s classic book, Games People Play.

In time - the theory of evolution is still being worked out. It’s still evolving. It’s still being understood and misunderstood.  

Some say we started with life in the sea.  We started - as we start in the sea of our mother’s womb - from tiny cells in the sea - some billions of years ago.  

They just found evidence in Canada of what they are calling the earliest forms of microorganisms and microfossils - from between 3.8 and 4.3 billion years old.

We’ve come a long way baby.

Since then we’ve extended the theme of evolution into all kinds of different changes and growth and development.

For example the term is used to say each person’s mind can evolve over a lifetime.

We know so much more after 65 than we knew at 25.

Older people watch younger people as they develop - learn - change - figure things out - work things out.

I like to look around at weddings. I watch seniors watching the kids dancing at the wedding! 

Or just watch older folks watching teen agers as they walk through a mall. These older folks - usually older men - who hate shopping - and they are retired and go  with their wives to the mall. They are sitting there in the rest stops - those benches, chairs, seats in the mall along the mall walk ways and they smile as they see kids in all kinds of outfits, rings, gadgets and things.

We evolve.

RELIGION AND SPIRITUALITY ABOUT THE WAY

When it comes to religion, hopefully we also grow and develop and evolve.

I taught spirituality for 9 years to future Redemptorists.

As we all know the teacher learns the most.

So I found out what spirituality is. 

Most definitions and descriptions of what spirituality is uses the noun, WAY.

Spirituality is a way, a road, a path, a channel, a journey.

In Chinese we have the word “TAO” pronounced as if it’s a D - DAO.  It’s the way I do life.

And hopefully we evolve and learn as we walk the yellow brick road, the Iliad, the Odyssey, The Road Less Traveled.

And after noticing that spirituality is the road or the way or the path - I found out that systems of spirituality then talk about steps - as in the 12 Steps in AA spirituality. 

Ladders….  You’ll hear about steps and stairs. There are 3 steps, there are 5 steps. there are 7 steps. I have a book I’ve been working on forever. It’s entitled, “The 8th Secret of Happiness.”  I’m evolving. I have about 9 other books in progress - slowly evolving over time. 

TODAY’S READINGS

Today’s readings talk about fasting.

That’s one of the practices, exercises, steps one takes in spirituality - so as to grow and evolve.

Fasting.

We used to think of fasting only when it comes to food and drink. We heard people talk about fast in Lent from candy, chocolates, alcohol. We’ve come a long way baby.

Now we hear about fasting from TV, gossip, couch potatoing it. I gave up solitaire on the computer about 5 years ago for Lent and haven’t done it since. No virtue, but it was a time gainer.

Jesus talks about fasting in today’s gospel - about there is a time for fasting and a time not to fast. [Cf. Matthew 9:14-15.]

You don’t fast at a wedding - even if you’re on a diet. You cheat at weddings. 

I have to fast from sugar for the rest of my life for my health - but my doctor, Doctor Lisa,  tells me to cheat every once and a while. That’s a good medical spiritual practice - otherwise I might stop being sweet. We all know that when folks are at the dessert time at any meal, any wedding, when they are eating cake or pie or ice cream, we are sweeter. We’re more smiling.

And we all know there are times we have to fast: for colonoscopies for starters. I’m a diabetic so I have to fast from stuff heavy in sugar.  Those who are alcoholics or can’t handle their booze, they have to fast.

We all know we got to get up out of our chairs and walk if we want to stay healthy.

So in today’s first reading, from Isaiah, he knows that people who give up drink or chocolate or whatever for Lent can become PITA’s - pains in the tush - as we all know. [Cf. Isaiah 58:1-9a.]

Don't we all remember hearing kids say when we were kids, “I can’t stand Lent because my father gives up cigarettes and beer for Lent and then becomes a raging angry person.”

Isaiah in today’s first reading said this stuff some 2500 years ago at least - the fasting person becomes angry and takes it out on his workers.

Listen to Isaiah again. Have we evolved this far?

Would that today you might fast
so as to make your voice heard on high!
Is this the manner of fasting I wish,
of keeping a day of penance:
That a man bow his head like a reed
and lie in sackcloth and ashes?
Do you call this a fast,
a day acceptable to the LORD?
This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed, 

breaking every yoke;
Sharing your bread with the hungry,
sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
and not turning your back on your own.
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed;
Your vindication shall go before you,
and the glory of the LORD 

shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer,
you shall cry for help, 

and he will say: Here I am!

CONCLUSION

Lent is 40 days.

Hopefully by Easter we have risen to a newer, better way of life.

Hopefully, we’ve evolved a bit more.


It calls for dying to self - and rising to occasions of grace. Amen.
March 3, 2017



CRUCIFIXION

The crucifixion takes place every day….
The stations of the cross take place
in every office, factory, home and church.
Christ falls every time an illegal is pushed
into a gas exhausting van - and is hustled
off to some Calvary. Christ is nailed every
time kids bully and pound some fragile kid.
Christ is condemned to death with every
abortion - and some of us pro life people think
there is only 1 station of the cross. Pilate
wasn’t the only one who tried to wash his
hands when giving in to the crowd….



© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Thursday, March 2, 2017

March 2, 2017


WHERE DOES IT HURT?

The little kid pointed to his knee
as he lay there on the sidewalk -
his skateboard now with a broken wheel….

The woman pointed to her wedding ring….

The school teacher pointed with her eye to a kid
all by himself looking out the schoolyard  fence….

The whole village in Syria - that has been
totally blown to bits - has decaying bodies
rotting in the alleyways and the kids are crying….

The couple sitting on hard wooden benches -
on hard marble floors - across from each other -
outside the big wooden doors of the divorce
courtroom - are 5,000 miles away from each other….

The sleepless ones in the night ….

The man I'm about to see in 5 minutes
who just lost his wife late yesterday afternoon ....

Where does it hurt?



© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017



Wednesday, March 1, 2017

March 1, 2017



ASHES

The sudden fire that leaves all
in ashes - or the slow crumbling
of us older  folks.... Ash Wednesday:
a cruel reminder that from earth
we started - to earth we’ll  return,
but like Augustine’s prayer for
chastity, not yet, Lord, not yet.
Give me time - more time, Lord.
Then Easter me, Lord, Easter me.

 © Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

WHERE IS YOUR GOD?
  
INTRODUCTION

The title of my homily for this Ash Wednesday is, “Where Is Your God?”

That’s a question from today’s first reading - from the Prophet Joel [2:17]

“Where is your God?”

There are many answers to that question - and I’m going to suggest an answer to that question from today’s Gospel.

FIRST SOME OTHER ANSWERS

Someone might say: I met God in the hospital a few years back. I was quite sick.  In fact I was scared that this might be it - so fear brought me right into the presence of God in Room 378 - and when I got better I came out of Room 378 with God in my life from then on.

Down through the years, whenever I’m in Manhattan, I visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral - but more important for me - is to walk about two streets north - on the other side of the street - and walk into St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church.  I take a seat in the semi-darkness, preferably with a pillar nearby - to hide behind.  I begin to see people in prayer and I realize this is where they find God. St. Patrick’s Cathedral has too much light -  too many tourists - and too much noise on a weekday afternoon.

Where is your God?

People have met God in the experience of having and raising a new born baby - or in the love discovered in marriage - or a family get together at Thanksgiving - or Sunday Mass or back packing in the mountains, or the Grand Canyon or on a sailboat some early Saturday morning in the Bay or a sunrise - or on a day like today: Ash Wednesday.

Where is your God?

AN  ANSWER IN TODAY’S GOSPEL

Today’s gospel is from the Sermon on the Mount - which is a neat summary of many of Jesus’ sayings and teachings.

Check out Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18.

Jesus begins by saying, “Enough with show.”

Religion can have too many “selfies” - too much tooting of one’s own horn.

Jesus says it’s about inner stuff. Religion is an inside job. Don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing - when you’re giving alms or praying or what have you.

Listen to Jesus again,
"When you pray,
do not be like the hypocrites,
who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners
so that others may see them.
Amen, I say to you,
they have received their reward.
But when you pray, go to your inner room,
close the door, and pray to your Father in secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”

There it is - a place to meet our God. It's in our inner room.

We all have an inner room. Sometimes we feel it’s in our chest. That’s when religion and God is really emotional.

Where is your God?

Best:  it’s in our head, in our mind, between our ears.

This Lent, clear out that inner room.

I suggest you have a nice Lazy Boy or Girl Chair in there.  I call it one's "prayer chair.”

It's in one's mind - and one sees it better if you have an actual physical prayer chair in your geography.

Find a place in your house - a bedroom corner - or back porch when it gets warmer  - or anywhere you can be quiet and peaceful - and sit there in your actual prayer chair.

A friend of mine fixed up his garage and made it a secret chapel.  His car is always outside now. But neighbors discovered his chapel and they slip in there on a regular basis. He loves to sit in there and pray.

For my dad it was our cellar.

I talking mainly here to have an inner room - inside our head - but use a lazy boy chair or a simple chair - in  a quiet place to sit down in.

Start with 10 minutes at the most - once every day - and go to your quiet chair and pray. Some days you'll miss. Don't be a nut - crazy - when it comes to your time - your relationship - with God.

You can use a Bible or one of those Black Lenten Books in the back we give out here every Lent or a pair of rosary beads - but sit in that chair - in a quiet place - and be in God’s presence.

Just begin: “Lord, it’s me. Hi. I’m here to be at peace with you and give you a bit of praise.”

Whatever….

CONCLUSION

Start off 5 to 10 minutes at the most for this Lent and when you grasp this use of time - you’ll end up doing this every day - and if anyone asks you, “Where is your God?” you’ll smile.


And you’ll answer, “With me!” or “Everywhere!” or “Whenever….”

Tuesday, February 28, 2017


OFFER  NO  BRIBES

INTRODUCTION

The title of my homily for this 8th Tuesday in Ordinary Time is, “Offer No  Bribes.”

That’s a rule - an urge  -  a challenge - in today’s first reading from Sirach.

And I’ve been trying in these weekday Masses to preach on the first reading - having done the gospels over and over again.

“Offer no bribes….”

Sirach has the Lord saying that.

Here’s the full context, the text,  “For the LORD is one who always repays, and he will give back to you sevenfold. But offer no bribes, these he does not accept! Trust not in sacrifice of the fruits of extortion. For he is a God of justice, who knows no favorites.”

Notice that message: “Offer no bribes.”  What’s that about?

Why are we here at Mass? Is there any bribery going on?  Woooh! That’s a question that hit me.

TO BE HONEST

To be honest I have never thought about trying to bribe God.”

On second thought, I’ve heard people say they are angry with God - because they said so many prayers, made so many sacrifices, and still their daughter has cancer or what have you.

How does this all work?  How does life work? How does my thinking go?  How does prayer work?

I guess these are bottom line question.

Jesus says to nag God - and keep on nagging him in the parable of the woman who drove a judge crazy till he gave her what she wanted. And Jesus advocated that. Check it out in Luke 18: 1-8.

In another saying, it’s in Matthew 7: 7-11, Jesus  says to ask, seek, and knock till God answers our prayers.  Keep knocking on God’s door.

In another parable about prayer Jesus tells about a man who has relatives snow up at night and he wants to give them something to eat - but he doesn’t have enough, so he goes next door and starts knocking on doors and yelling to windows and finally his neighbor - who has gone to bed - opens up a window and says, “It’s too late! We’re all in bed.” But his neighbor still begs - so the man gets him stuff to get rid of him.  And Jesus says to be that noisy neighbor in the night - when it comes to prayer.

LEARNINGS

One of learnings we can take from the Bible is that it has at times contrary messages.

We have messages like put down your sword and take up your sword.

Sometimes God lets happen; sometimes God wipes out.

Another message is that the message might be different than the one we’re taking. So in that passage about the woman driving the judge crazy, maybe the stress is not on manipulating the judge - but to be persistent as a mosquito looking for blood when we pray. So too in the message of keep on asking, keep on knocking on God’s door.

And we can also switch from the God vs. Us relationship to the us vs. us relationships in life. Don’t bribe others. I’m not married but in marriages does bribery go on. You clean out the garage finally, and I’m make your favorite - veal parmesan for the week. Is that bribery - or how things work? I guess clear loving communication - good give and take - would certainly be a better plan. But I’m not married - but over in the rectory I do hear at times one guy saying to another guy in jest, “Yes dear!”

So too in life’s interactions out there. Isn’t it better to be honest with each other - and wait our turn - instead of bribing our way into the restaurant - ahead of others - with a tip because we got the money or we’re a priest and we use the title  to get a better table or not get the speeding ticket. Maybe the best way is that the first should be first and the last should be last as we hear in today’s gospel.

Next, if we learn how to treat each other better in life, then we can apply that to how we treat God.  Jesus often did that. Didn’t he say, “Notice how a mother or a father takes care of their children, well that’s how God the Father treats you.

CONCLUSION

I guess the bottom line is: there probably is a better way than using bribery in our ways of doing life with God and each other. Amen. 
February 28, 2017


CLOUD SPLIT

A cloud split in half -
without knowing why.
One half remained
in a cloud;
the other half knew
it had to split.
It had various
other places in the sky,
it wanted to visit -
it wanted to see.
It just loved to fly.

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017


Monday, February 27, 2017

February 27, 2017

COMPLICATED

Of course it’s complicated,
and I know you want simple.
But simple is complicated....
As soon as we start talking
about it - as soon as we bring
other people to talk about the
situation, it gets more complicated.
So the simple solution is
simply to get used to it. What?
I told you it was complicated.



© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017
LIFE  AFTER  DEATH 


INTRODUCTION

The title of my homily for this 8th Monday in Ordinary Time  is, “Life After Death.”

At some point in everyone’s life, that becomes life’s question - Life’s # 1 Question.

We think about death - and life after death. It varies how the thoughts arise - perhaps first about others - like one’s parents or grandparents - then about ourselves.

Is this it? Is this all there is? Or is there life beyond this?

Last week, with the news stories about discovery of 7 new planets, in some other solar system, the talk  about the possibility of life in outer space - on other planets has reappeared.



But what about the lives of those who have died ahead of us. Are all the people who ever lived alive in some kind of inner space -  invisible space?  Is there a space, a place, called, "Heaven" or "Hell" or "Purgatory" or what? 

What is life?  What is the soul?  What is the life principle - that makes a corpse different than someone walking down the street?

So my homily is an effort to talk about these questions that we reflect upon from time to time.

Obviously people think and talk inwardly and sometimes outwardly about all this - more at 77 than 57 or 37 - and especially not when we were 17.

EVERY RELIGION - EVERY PHILOSOPHY

Every religion, every philosophy, faces this question about life eternal or what have you.

Every  - well not every - but every.... That’s what’s called a Semitic universal.

Everyone was at the party. Everyone? Well not everyone - but everyone. You know what I mean.




Well everyone thinks about, “Is this all there is?”

I just was at a burial and a service at Hillcrest Cemetery at 11 AM. Cemeteries have all those stones - with names and numbers on them in stone - but underneath is the decaying of a body.

Do cemeteries cause the most reflection - say like - more than the NICU section of a hospital?

TODAY’S FIRST READING

It was a comment in today’s first reading from Sirach that triggered these  thoughts - this topic - these questions.

“Who in the nether world can glorify the Most High in place of the living who offer their praise? Dwell no longer in the error of the ungodly, but offer your praise before death. No more can the dead give praise
than those who have never lived....”

Different commentators say that Sirach is saying that death is it. We know what we can do when alive - but when dead - we are either no more - or we’re in a nebulous nether world. 

Some use the Hebrew word “Sheol” - which becomes “Hades” - when translated into Greek - as the world for the nether world.

But every religion has some word or words to describe the next life - if they don’t say, “That’s it.”

THE REALITY OF DOUBTS

It’s interesting to state that those who believe in a life after death have doubts - and those who say, “That’s it!” have doubts as well.

In reading about Judaism on this topic - I kept on noticing that there is no consistency - no absolute statement - “This is what Jews believe when it comes to an afterlife.”


I can never forget the moment I was standing at my brother’s grave with his buddy - his best friend. We were praying. In fact Marty asked me if he could say the Kaddish Prayer out loud and I said, “Of course.” So he prayed in Hebrew or Aramaic. Afterwards he said to me, “I don’t believe in life after death.”

That killed me!

That triggered the reality of people standing there having two totally different beliefs.

A bunch of years later I’m sitting there in a room with Marty and his wife Gloria - and she is dying of cancer - and they were kidding and saying, “Wait till Pat and you are together looking down on us here and laughing at us.”

Gloria and me a short time before she died.

This stuff is the stuff of story and pathos and connections and people with people. I can still hear the sound of earth from my shovel falling down into Gloria’s grave one Sunday morning - surrounded by well over 100 people at her burial.

Death and cemetery moments trigger these questions as well.

CHRISTIANS

The gift of Christ is resurrection - the heart of Christianity.

St. Paul says if Christ did not rise from the dead, then we’re a bunch of fools - because that’s our central belief. [Cf. 1 Corinthians 15.]

IMPOSSIBLE

How is this possible?

Let’s say it’s impossible - then we trust in Jesus’ words from today’s gospel.

With God all is possible.

CONCLUSION

This is heavy stuff to think about on a Monday early afternoon.

Lent is almost upon us - Ash Wednesday is two days away.

Lent is a time of more serious thinking.

Lent ends with the death of Jesus on Good Friday and the Resurrection of Christ on Easter Sunday.

Amen.





Sunday, February 26, 2017


MANIFESTING THE MOTIVES 
OF OUR HEART

INTRODUCTION

The title of my homily is, “Manifest the  Motives of  Our  Heart.”

As I listened to the readings we have for today - this 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time [Year A] - a comment from today’s second reading from Saint Paul grabbed me: “manifest the motives of our hearts….”

“… manifest the motives of our hearts….”

Here’s that comment in full context:
“Therefore do not make any judgment
before the appointed time,
until the Lord comes,
for he will bring to light
what is hidden in darkness
and will manifest the motives of our hearts,
and then everyone will receive praise from God.” [1 Corinthians 4:5]

MOTIVES

All of us are detectives.

All of us - when we are scratching our head - and trying to figure out the otherness of other people ask, “Motive?”

We cry over and over again, “Why? Why? Why?”

We want to know what’s the why of the what that has happened?

We like mysteries - if they are in a book or on  TV - trying to get to the why and then the who of a crime.

We know our who’s - the who’s who in our lives.

It’s the  why’s about them that we spend so much energy on.

TODAY’S READINGS

In today’s first reading from Isaiah 49: 14-15, we want to know at times why God has forgotten us.

At least that’s what we feel and think. It hits us when there is cancer, a death, an accident, a disaster. It happens and we pray. We scream at God. It seems God has forgotten us.

So Isaiah voices God back to us when we feel that way - when disaster happens, “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.”

So when someone dies, don’t blame God. Look to self. Look to realities. One question would be: “What would Spaceship Earth or Ark Earth look like if nobody ever died?”

In today’s gospel - continuing the Sermon on the Mount - we have lots of food for thought - when it comes to motives.

For example: Why are you worried - anxious - about food and drink and clothing?

For example: Why are you trying to serve two masters? Don’t you know that will pull you apart?  Don’t you know the Russian proverb: Chase two wolves and you’ll catch neither?

LIST OF MOTIVES

I’ve often wondered if there is a good list of motives around.

I’ve heard that the 3 key problems in marriage are money, sex and in-laws.

I’ve heard that the 2 key motives are fear vs. love?

I typed into Google the word, “Motives.”

One article said that psychologists divide motives into 3 categories: biological, social, and personal motives. Then they break down those 3 motives to many subdivisions.

Someone came up with 12 motives for murder:
·       To keep a secret
·       Revenge
·       Frustration/hate
·       Money/Greed
·       Sex/Jealousy
·       Property Dispute
·       Personal Vendetta
·       Political
·       Class Conflict
·       Narcotics
·       Other Felonies
·       Urge to Protect

A Stephen Reiss came up from a study of 6,000 people, 16 basic desires:

1.    Acceptance - the need to be appreciated
2.    Curiosity, the need to gain knowledge
3.    Eating, the need for food
4.    Family, the need to take care of one’s offspring
5.    Honor, the need to be faithful to the customary values of an individual’s ethnic group, family or clan
6.    Idealism, the need for social justice
7.    Independence, the need to be distinct and self-reliant
8.    Order, the need for prepared, established, and conventional environments
9.    Physical activity, the need for work out of the body
10.                    Power, the need for control of will
11.                    Romance, the need for mating or sex
12.                    Saving, the need to accumulate something
13.                    Social contact, the need for relationship with others
14.                    Social status, the need for social significance
15.                    Tranquility, the need to be secure and protected
16.                    Vengeance, the need to strike back against another person
So there are various lists.

I would suggest doing some homework and try to come up with key motives that make sense to you.

Then watch yourself.

Know yourself.

And it you don’t like a motive that drives you, get rid of that car and drive a new car. Work on working on a better life style.

CONCLUSION

I think that's a decent start on the topic of motivations.

Let me close with this short piece from Daniel Ladinsky’s book, Love Poems from God. The following is some thoughts from St. John of the Cross put up in poetic language from Daniel Ladinsky.
  
"DIG HERE," THE ANGEL SAID

She caught me off guard when my soul said to me, "Have we met?"

So surprised I was to hear her speak like that I chuckled.

She began to sing a tale: "There was once a hardworking man who used to worry so much because he could not feed and clothe his children and wife the way he wanted.

There was a beautiful little chapel in the village where the man lived and one day while he was praying, an angel appeared.

The angel said, 'Follow me.' And he did out into an ancient forest. `Now dig here,' the angel said. And the man felt strength in his limbs he had not known since youth and with just his bare hands he dug deep and found a lost treasure, and his relationship with the world changed."

Finding our soul's beauty does that—gives us tremendous freedom from worry.

“Dig here, the angel said - in your soul, in your soul.”