Saturday, March 11, 2017



The title of my homily is, “A Perfect 10!”

Did you hear the last sentence in today’s Gospel:  “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect."

Do we have to be a perfect 10 - as perfect as God is?

Woo, that would be a much tougher commandment than keeping all the all the 10 commandments all the time.

Did God ever try ice skating or gymnastics? Would God get a perfect 10 every time?


Life takes time. Growth takes time. It’s evolutionary. It takes practice. It’s developmental. It’s a journey. It’s a pilgrimage. So hopefully there is time for some Pilgrim Progress.

In the last 50 years a new word is “process” - as in “Process Philosophy” or “Process Theology”. 

Life is a process - an evolution - hopefully.

We’re not finished till we’re finished. That’s what process philosophy and process theology teach is. We’re in process. We’re not there yet.


Take the process of doing a book or an article or a serious letter. The first draft is rarely the final draft. We jot down ideas. We do a quick draft. We add. We delete. We add. We cut. We do lots of drafts.

The old image was walking into a room of a person writing a book and we see hundreds of pieces of crumbled paper on the floor. I was tempted to take a bunch of pieces of paper - mimic a person at a typewriter - and crumble paper and throw them on the sanctuary floor. Now that we have computers, I’ll have to come up with a new image.

Doing a term paper, doing a book, doing a painting, doing a poem, doing life, all takes many drafts. We usually don’t get it right the first time. We learn. We develop. We grow.

Life is a process. Becoming perfect - becoming like God - more and more - is a process. It takes time.


Now the implications of taking a process position as opposed to a perfection position are profound.

First of all, start with oneself. Do a “selfie” exam.

Picturing oneself, how well have I learned patience and compassion with ourselves.

We don’t have faith, hope and charity down. We grow. We make good moves and we make bad moves. We sin. We fall. We revert. But hopefully we convert on a regular basis. Onwards and upwards. Excelsior. Let him or her who hasn’t made mistakes, who has arrived, who is perfect, stand there and throw rocks and him or her who is still moving onwards.

Question: do our mistakes, our slips, our falls, our sins,  help us become more understanding of ourselves? As we age, do we age in patience—and compassion—bearing with ourselves lovingly? Or do we do a number on ourselves?

Can we admit that each time we sin, each time we fall, each time we don’t get an A+ or 100, we are not God. We are not perfect.

I think the advantage of marks teaches a kid that we usually don’t get hundreds. I think sports can teach kids that only one team wins the tournament. Only one kid wins the race—only one swimmer gets the gold medal. Very few gymnasts or figure skaters get a perfect 10.

So in the meanwhile, we have to learn to do our best, keep striving and keep training.

In the meanwhile, we need to enjoy the bus rides to different track meets and different stadiums.  We need to keep practicing and do our  homework.

In the meanwhile, we don’t kill yourself if you don’t get an A. Some students do that—for example, television or newspapers sometimes report that there is too much pressure in Japan to succeed, to be perfect.

Parents who stress that, often stress out their kids and themselves. Slow down and enjoy the flowers along the way.

Jesus will still eat with us, even when we sin.


So that’s a first step. We can also develop, learn, evolve, with our ability to be patient and compassionate with the other guy - with each other..

The problem with the Pharisees was their hiding the reality of their imperfections under a veneer of false holiness, piety and prayer.


Joan Baez used to sing a song,  entitled, “Be not too hard”. It was by Christopher Logue-Donovan—whoever that is or whoever they are. The song lines are something like,

          “Be not too hard for life is short,
          and nothing is given to man.
          Be not too hard we will soon die,
          often no wiser than when we began.
          Be not too hard
          for he must manage as best he can.
          Be not too hard when he blindly dies
     fighting for things 
     that he does not own.
          Be not too hard
          for he will soon die
often no wiser than when he began.          
Be not too hard when he tells lies
or if his heart is somewhat like a stone.”


My message then is: we are all on our way. So let’s be patient with ourselves and with others. Aim for a perfect 10 - but hold one’s head up when we get a 2.
March 11, 2017


Fill in the blank_______.

Did you have a security blanket, 
a toy dog, a teddy bear, that 
you had to have - if you wanted 
to go to sleep or anywhere as a kid?

I don’t know. I don’t remember.

I’ll have to ask my older sister,
because we’re the only two left
after all these years?

Then again we probably bit
our thumb nail a bit - when
our mom and dad died -
and when we lost the key
comfort people and objects
of our life - like it seemed we 
lost it all as we moved from our
last home to the nursing home?

Come to think about it,
I never thought of a Bible
or a rosary as a blankie -
and YOU too, O God.

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Friday, March 10, 2017



The title of my homily is, “Lent! Time In Between Time.”

On Ash Wednesday we began the Season of Lent - 40 days and 40 nights - of special time.

It’s connected with the 40 days - Jesus retreated into the desert - when and where he wrestled with life’s big issues - temptations - questions - “What’s next?” Then he came  out of the desert - out of an  empty waste - ready to speak, preach, give wisdom, wash feet, challenge people, help and heal and feed people  and give that same mission to our world.

It’s connected with the 40 years the people of Israel were in the desert - dealing with the struggle to become a people. They had to grow up. Like children they spent too much time complaining and whining against Moses and God. Why did God tell us  people to make an exit - and exodus - out of Egypt? They forgot the part that they were slaves in Egypt.


As you know not all time is the same.

Sometimes time is just time.

Sometimes time is non-descript, or time is boring, or time is super exciting.

Sometimes some times are special times.

There’s a difference between Holy Week and any other week of the year.

There’s a difference between the Christmas Season, Summer, Vacation.

Not all days are the same: some days are birthdays - or your parent’s wedding anniversary day - or the day a grandfather died.

Some days someone gets a notice they have to appear in court.

Some days someone has a career game on the basketball court and his or her name is in the paper - and the newspaper story is cut out and a great grandkid sees it in an album 65 years later and says, “Grandpa or Grandma I didn’t know you played basketball.”

Not all time, not all seasons are the same: spring, summer, autumn, winter.

Some of you - good news to you - if you end up with a drinking or a drug problem  - you’ll have to go into a rehab for 40 days or 30 days or 6 months and that period of your life will help you 100 times more than any season of Lent or Advent or year of schooling.

Not all time is the same time.

On Wednesday afternoon I was standing there in St. Peter’s Catholic Cemetery on Route 50 - some 15 miles from the Bay Bridge - after a burial. My car was trapped. So I walked around and stopped to read the stones - as a way of using my time well - instead of complaining inwardly, “People stop talking to each other. Please get back into your cars.  I gotta get back to St. Mary’s.”

There was a black stone for some guy who died around 18 or 19 years of age. I saw just his name - his numbers - and a poem carved on the back of the stone about being understood or not being understood.

And all the stones around  him had people who made it to their 70’s and 80’s.

Not all time is the same time.

Not every life has the same number of minutes and months.


Lent is a good time to look at the time of my life.

It’s about time.

It’s about time to look at how I use time.

We’re about to start the baseball season and I like to read about the upcoming season. I read that Michael Conforto of the Mets and Justin Heyward of the Cubs really worked on their swing as hitters over the winter. We’ll see.

How well do we use time?
I remember in baseball in the seminary I found one of those hand sized squeezy exercise things. So I squeezed them thousands and thousands of times in class - outside of class - forever. Being a single’s hitter, I wanted to have better bat control. That year I hit .374. It worked. 

When we use our time well, when we train well, when we read well, when we work well, we end up with great memories of great times and jobs in high school and college and life.

I recently heard someone say they skipped Spring Break in College and went to Kentucky with some other kids to help work on houses for the poor and it was a super time.

Not everyone uses their time the same.


Every night a nice night prayer is taking a minute to look back on today and say, “How was it.”

Come up with some great moments and say, “Thanks God.” If there were some nasty moments say, “Sorry X or Y and God.” Help me to do better tomorrow. Amen.

March 10, 2017


too many times
I’ve neglected the
wheat of the fields,
the grapes on the vine,
because I was scared
of you - a you - I imagined
was made of straw -
till one day I saw you -
off the cross, on the street,
the stranger, the different,
the rejected, bleeding, hurting,
one - calling out, “Come to me ….
all you who are …..”

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Thursday, March 9, 2017



This week I have been presenting various specific practices for Lent.

Monday: The Golden Rule. Don’t do things to others that you would not want people to do to you. Do things to others that you would like be done to you.

Tuesday: The Our Father. This is in the gospel of the day. It’s a great prayer, especially when you find it difficult to pray.

Wednesday: Contemplation. I stressed contemplation. It’s the sign of Jonas. Lent is a great time to become quiet and reflect and see great realities, God’s realities all around us.

Today: Prayer of Petition. Today I would like to move into prayer of petition.


So some reflection on prayer of petition.

St. Alphonsus would love today’s 2 readings, both are about Prayer of Petition.

In the first reading Esther cries out to God for help. [Cf. Esther c, 12: 14-16, 23-25.]

And in the gospel Jesus tells us how to pray: ask, seek, knock. [Cf. Matthew 7: 7-12]

When it comes to being stuck, have we thought about trying God?

Have we thought about going to God with our needs and if we get there and the door seems to be closed, knock and knock loudly.

If we can’t find the right door, ask, seek, knock, till we have tried every door in the mansion.  

Stand outside every door and scream, “Help!

Let her or him with the most needs pick up stones and throw them at God’s window.

Be like the Syro-Phoenician woman, outsmart Jesus.


Moreover, if we ask for the wrong things, God will give us the right things.

If we ask for a poisonous snake, God will give us a fish.

If we’re asking for a rock to throw at our neighbor, God will give us a loaf of bread that we can share with them.


So prayer of petition is a good practice for Lent.


In St. Alphonsus’ time, there were a lot of arguments and questioning about the issue of freedom vs. grace. 

Is it me or is it God?

Of course it’s both.

That’s why I love the 15th chapter of Luke - and its three stories - three parables.  In the first two stories God goes looking - and searching out sinners - whether we are a lost sheep or a lost coin. In the third story, God waits for us to get up from the pig pen and return home.

That’s why I love the story of the monkey who fell down the well. The mother monkey reaches down for her child - and makes noises that her child has to reach up for her hand - otherwise she’s lost.

That’s why I love the saying: “Pray for potatoes, but pick up a shovel!” or “In a storm, pray to get back to the shore, but start rowing.” 

Then there is the Moslem saying, “Pray that your camel doesn’t run away in the night, but make sure you tie his reins to your tent peg.”

How many times have we heard in a sermon the story of the man in building with the river rising and he keeps praying - but is drowned.  When he faces God, he yells at God for not helping. And we know God's answer. "Hey turkey I sent you a row boat and a helicopter - but no, you kept praying."

In other words, life needs to be a relationship, a cooperation, a working together with God and each other.

Into these discussions, St. Alphonsus slipped into the answers prayer of petition.

Ask, seek, knock, and don’t worry about who did what.

Just pray. Just do.

Ask and God will send help.  Ask and solutions will appear.


Today the question is, “Why pray to God? Why ask God for help to intervene?

Are we supposed to twist God’s arm or are we supposed to go out and work for our daily bread by hard work?

Isn’t prayer about changing attitudes?

Isn’t prayer less about healing of cancer and more about grace to deal with cancer?

Yes or no?

A change of mind can change one’s body.

A change of attitude can change one’s health.

Yes, we Catholics have not been arrested for faith healing nor that we tried to stop blood transfusions.

We pray as we wait outside the operating and recovery room in the hospital.

We pray for peace and work for justice -- realizing that’s the way to arrive at peace.

In today’s first reading from the Book of Esther we see Esther praying her people about to be exterminated - but she also does something. Then she acts. Then she makes her move.


Today I talked about Prayer of Petition - a major theme of the Redemptorist founder, St. Alphonsus.

I love his saying, “Pray and you’ll be saved. Don’t pray and you’ll be lost.”

I apply that to here and hereafter.
March 9, 2017

No Más Wall 

No wall!
Fill 10,000 potholes per week instead.

No wall!
Fix the infrastructure of 10,000 bridges instead.

No wall!
Plant 50 trees per week in cities instead.

No wall!
Build more parks, more outdoor basketball courts, instead.

No wall!
Start more and more voc-tech schools instead.

No wall!
Build more work force and affordable housing units instead.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2017

Wednesday, March 8, 2017



The title of my homily for this First Wednesday of Lent is, “The Sign of Jonah - Contemplation.”

Since both readings for today talk about Jonah, I better talk about Jonah. But to be more specific, I would like to talk about  the sign of Jonah. One of the ongoing scripture questions is: Just what was the sign of Jonah? [Cf. Jonah 3:1-10; Luke 11:29-32]


First signs.

We humans need signs: signs that we are here. Signs that we are recognized, accepted, acknowledged. We wait for texts and e-mails from others that they are alive and all goes well.  When we get medical tests, we anxiously await the results. When we are being operated on they keep an eye on our vital signs.

When it comes to God, we look for signs that God is present - that God is alive.

If God gave a message that God would appear in Bangkok Thailand or Reykjavik, Iceland, next July 14th, there wouldn’t be enough hotel space or airplanes to get the amount of people who would want to be there.

Jesus knew all this. He says in the gospel that people look for signs, but the only sign they are going to get is himself. He is the sign of Jonah.

At times Saint Alphonsus, the founder of us Redemptorists,  talked about people running all over the place for miracles etc., when we have Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

Alphonsus states in his Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ, that God gives 3 great signs of his love: creation, the cross and the Eucharist.


Yet we humans miss too many signs. They are there. Yet we aren’t looking.

The people of Nineveh got the message. They read the signs and they changed. They  repented.

So Jesus says, “I ain’t going to give you big miracles. Change!”


Ooops, I better get to my point about what is the sign of Jonah.

Let me give a bit of exegesis or Bible text explanations.

Exegetes looking at today’s gospel, say that the sign of Jonah is Jonah spending 3 days in belly of the whale. Just as Jesus spent 3 days in the belly of the earth (in a tomb), so too Jonah spent 3 days in the belly of a whale. Just as Jonah was thrown up on the shore, so too Jesus is thrown up again on the shore of the earth. He is born again.

Baptism is part of this story.  Easter is the big time for Baptism.

Others, would say, basing their stuff on today’s gospel from Luke, the sign of Jonah is the preaching of repentance. Exegetes always say that people are looking for big signs, big miracles, big wonders, before they will convert, before they will come to God, before they will come to Jesus. They say to Jesus in so many words, “Work the miracles we heard you worked in X, and we here in Y will change.” Alphonsus would comment that people go all over the place and neglect Jesus in our midst, for example in the tabernacle.

So - with various opinions - on all this,  we don’t know for sure what the sign of Jonah is.


For the sake of a thought for a weekday Mass during Lent, I would propose that the sign of Jonah is contemplation. Saying that is kind of odd and jarring - hopefully.

Let me try to explain.

When preparing this homily I recalled Thomas Merton’s book, The Sign of Jonah. Maybe that would help. I noticed that he says many things in that book, but what struck me was his idea of contemplation.

Being in the belly of the whale - being in that quiet, being caught in that inner room, Jonah had to think. He was stuck. He was imprisoned. He had to say, “Where am I? What did I do to get caught here?”

Figuring that out was contemplation. Jonah became a new person in the belly of the whale. Then he was reborn. He became a new person.

So too, we have to become quiet.  That’s one of the themes of Lent.

And in his book, The Sign of Jonah, Thomas Merton says, that in a cold, pre-spring moment he discovered in contemplation his whole vocation.

He said he rediscovered four things:
·       God,
·       himself
·       the scriptures
·       the divine office


On one Ash Wednesday, he saw that all will turn to ashes, whether it’s a great painting or the billboard that he was looking at while taking a trip into Louisville, that featured a Lucky Strike sign.  Both will turn to ashes. Seeing all that.

And then at the end of Lent, when all the buds are about to pop, he discovered that it’s all going to be new life. He discovered Easter again. Life not death. Buds not ashes.


So each of us, if we take and make time for contemplation, we can see some of these things.

For example, as in Psalm 130, we can go back to our mother’s lap or even to her womb.  We can discover in that quiet, new beginnings. We can be reborn. We can have a second spring. We can have new life.

And like Jonah we can start again.

The call is to do what God is calling us to do - not running the other way - which is what Jonah did at first.
March 8,  2017


Who did it? We play that game
every day … reading graffiti on
walls … wondering who left the
milk out … who didn’t pick up after
their dog … who dented our car …
who started that style … who said
what, when and why … who taught
that baby to have such a great
smile … who told her … who called …
who gave us such a beautiful dawn …
and who gave us this night sky?

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Tuesday, March 7, 2017


The title of my homily for this First Tuesday in Lent  is, “How To Say the Our Father.”

That might be a good Lenten Resolution - to say the Our Father once a day very calmly and very prayerfully.

Remember Jesus says right before teaching his disciples the Our Father, “Do not babble.”

Once more, here are the comments he made, “"In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

We have all be around long enough to know that people often babble the Our Father. Somewhere in our younger years - most of us sensed something was wrong when some people prayed the Our Father out loud - but in rush of babble. OurFatherwhoartinheavenhallowed bethynamethy kingdom comethywillbedoneonearthasitisinheaven.Giveusthisdayourdaily breadandforgiveusourtrespassesasweforgivethosewhotresspassagainstusandleadusnotintotemptationbutdeliverusfromevil.Amen

We knew instinctively that was not the way to pray or the way to talk to God for that matter to each other.


How to say the Our Father?  Picture God the Father sitting there in a nice comfy chair. Climb up onto the chair, onto God the Father and slowly say the Our Father into his ear or into his face or into his eyes.

How to say the Our Father?  Picture the slices of bread you are going to taste and eat today - including the Eucharist and say to God slowly and with great grace and reverence, “Give us this day our daily  bread.”  And pray  for all the children of the world - especially the hungry and the starving - those with nothing to eat - because of empty hands.

How to say the Our Father? Pray for peace in our world this day - along with that daily bread.  Pray that all people try to do God’s will in the world today - which will bring that peace. Pray that we all work to bring about the kingdom today - that it come about.

How to say the Our Father? Pray for the grace to be able to forgive each other and that they forgive us back - and we see those trespassing signs.

How to say the Our Father? For Lent find a good book on the Our Father and read it?

For example, Scott Hahn came out with a book last year entitled, Understanding "Our Father": Biblical Reflections on the Lord's Prayer.

Matthew Kelly had a small book on the Our Father - from back in 1994. It’s out of print now -  but I read that people are paying up to $212 dollars on line. The price of fame.

Or go back further,  Helmut Thielicke, has an excellent book on the Our Father, Our Heavenly Father: Sermons on the Lord's Prayer  -Translated by John W. Doberstein. New York: Harper & Row, 1960. I found that to be one of the best books on the Our Father.

Or go back to St. Teresa of Avila and her classic book on the Way of Perfection in which she reflects with great simplicity and prayerfulness the parts of the Our Father.


Whatever…. During this Lent grow in prayer and union and communion with God - by entering deeper and deeper into the Our Father. Amen.

Pray the Out Father - water the earth with it’s words day - steady rain or soft snow words - it will saturate the soil of the souls of all people. Amen.
March 7, 2017


Lobsters, crabs, shrimp, seafood’s finest,
oooooohhhh, I never order them. Oooooh.
I order, I eat, by look and prejudice only.
Those claws and clamps of crustaceans,
crab legs, lobster legs, are too scary for me -
along with all those sea monsters - with pedia,
poda, appendages - I’ll stick with hamburgers
and hotdogs and I’m sure lobsters and crabs
go for them as well, They are easy game as
long as somehow they get dumped into the bottom of the bay - and some crawling lobster or crab - crawling along says, “How about this?”

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Monday, March 6, 2017



The title of my homily for this First Monday in Lent is, “One Bumper Sticker Per Person.”

If you could put one bumper sticker on your car - what would it be?

Maybe you already have 5 on your car. If you do, you’re way ahead of me in this homily.

If you could put one scripture text on your car, what would it be?

For the sake of transparency, I have one of those magnet type - ribbon thing on my car, “Pray for Priests.”  It’s not a scripture text.

I hope someone seeing that said a prayer for priests when they saw it.

I assume it comes out of the abuse cases a bit - but I don’t know.

It’s tough seeing in the paper or on TV - a story about a priest being accused or being convicted of child abuse.

Pray for priests. Pray for those who have been abused by priests or anyone.


I got the thought for this homily when I read today’s gospel.

Every time I see someone holding the  sign John 3:16  at a football or basketball game, I get the thought, “Why not Matthew 25:31-46?” Yet John 3:16 is very powerful,  “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life”

Today’s gospel, Matthew 25: 31-46 - powerful implications.

So if you could put one biblical text on your car as a bumper sticker, what text would you choose?

I would put my favorite Bible text: Galatians 6:2, “Bear one another’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the Law of Christ.”

Why not?

I’m sure I told  this story before, because I love it. A Jewish guy - a very successful  business man -  once said to me, “I have a great idea on how the pope can solve any money problem.” Then he added, “Don’t take this the wrong way.”  Then he said, “Every time I see the pope wearing that white outfit - I’m not sure just what you call it -  I see all that empty space with nothing written on it. I see it as great advertising space - going empty. What would it be like to see Pepsi Cola on it.”

What would it be like to read Matthew 25: 31-46 on the pope’s cassock?

If people took that parable of Jesus to mind and heart - could anyone be for trying to oust strangers from our country - and causing them and their families hell - and causing hell inside themselves - as they scream for their removal.

If people took that parable of Jesus to mind and heart - would they have to triple the size of waiting rooms in hospitals and prisons?

If people took that parable of Jesus to mind and heart - would people go to food pantries with extra mac and cheese and food and clothes for the poor and the hungry - and thank those who staff them.


So the title of my homily is, “One Bumper Sticker Per Person.” So what does or would your bumper sticker say?