Saturday, March 18, 2017

March 18, 2017


Oh I have a lot of unthought thoughts.
There waiting for me when green lights
turn red  - and I have to stop for a moment -
or they pop into my mind when someone
says something stupid  - but most of the time -
they just stop and wait for me to finally hear
them go, “Ahem!” Then I can’t find a piece
of paper or a pen to jot them down. Just got
a thought: they taught me an “Ahem!” is
much more important  than an “Amen!”.  

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Friday, March 17, 2017



The title of my homily for this 2nd Friday in Lent and St. Patrick’s Day is, “What’s Going On In Your Heart?”


Today’s readings triggered that question for me.

They are not St. Patrick’s Day readings - but readings for this Friday in the 2nd week of Lent. However, they trigger some St. Patrick’s Day thoughts in me. How about you?

What’s going on in your heart?

What’s going on in my mind - which is connected to my heart - which is connected to my whole body?

While preparing this homily, I took a 12 inch ruler out of top desk drawer. I put one end to my head and the other end to my heart. They are less than 12 inches from each other.  When I hear something with my ears and I see something with my eyes and I process what I’m sensing with my mind, if it’s a horror story on the news or I’m seeing a car accident on the street or a house on fire, I grab my heart and say, “Oh my God.”

Eyes, ears, mind, heart. they are all interconnected.

When tense,  we clinch our fists and our jaws a bit more. We feel it in our back side when someone is a PITA. That’s exactly what that phrase means. Some people are a pain in the A. I know I have been described that way at times. How about you? We feel stress in our bodies when we feel stress in our souls. Relax! It happens to the other person as well.

So what’s going on in our hearts today - St. Patrick’s Day - March 17, 2017?  I don’t know about you, but let’s be honest, there is more stress going on in our country  - say right now compared to 6 months ago.


Today’s readings have a lot of red energy going on.

In today’s gospel there is a lot of red blood shed in the vineyard.

Jesus, the dreamer, is talking about his future.

In the first reading Joseph’s brothers want to kill him. He is their father’s favorite - the dreamer - the one who got the coat of many colors.

Dreamers - sometimes get killed - or criticized - or ostracized.

Luckily his brother Reuben saved him. Instead of killing him, Reuben sandwiched into his words a plan that he came up with. Let’s throw him into this well here in the wilderness.

Reuben figured he could double back and save his brother. They took off Joseph’s coat and tossed him in the well.

Surprise! Just then they spotted some  Midianite merchants  heading to Egypt - so they sold Joseph off to them for 20 pieces of silver.

By the time Jesus comes along they sold him for 30 pieces of silver.

The price of living and dying had gone up and these stories and these details are in here in the Bible  for a reason.

Reasonable people come up with reasons on why things happened long after they happen.

The brothers slaughter a goat. They take the blood and spread it on Joseph’s coat and they tell his dad, Jacob, that a wild animal must have killed Joseph.

And that’s how Joseph got to Egypt - which in the long run - becomes big time in Israel’s history and mystery.


Recently my sister Mary told me a family story.

Our people come from Galway, Ireland - better Ballynahown, Ireland, County Galway, right on Galway Bay.

It’s the land of rocks - lots of rocks - and lots of cows.

In winter some of the cows took a boat over to the Aran Islands - especially Inis More - because it was warmer in winter.

Well a cow died.

An uncle was told in the spring when he came to pick up his cows that one cow of his had died.

He knew it was a lie - an alternative fact - because there was his cow - standing there mooing when he went over by boat to pick up his cows in the spring.

He told the cow sitter, “That’s my cow!”

“No, that’s my cow. Your cow died.”

Then the cow came over to his owner - who said, “See!”

He didn’t win the case or the story so he came to America.

How did your people get to America and why?

I remember hearing a story about a Jewish family in the deep south - I think it was Tennessee.  When asked why they settled there - in some small town in the middle of nowhere, the Jewish guy said, “The horse died.”

How did you get to where you got and why?

America is the country of stories - how people came here like Joseph - getting to Egypt - and in time new stories happened.

There are an estimated 50,000 illegal Irish immigrants in the United States.

My cousin married a construction worker in New York City - someone who was a teacher in Ireland - and  illegal at the time of their marriage - which I did.

How did your people get here and why?

Today’s New York Times - with lots of Irish stuff - like all papers today - talks a bit about how so many Irish got here to the United States - and we could add Australia, South America, Canada and so many other places.

Fintan O’Toole of the Irish Times has an article in the New York Times today entitled, “Green Beer and Rank Hypocrisy.”

He begins with this question: “Does green beer taste better laced with hypocrisy? Does shamrock smell sweeter perfumed with historical amnesia?”

The title of my homily is, “What’s Going On In my Heart Today?”

It’s right there!

My heart is worried about all the illegal immigrants in the United States. I don’t want them rounded up and deported.

Here’s a comment from that article: “The Irish are at least as fond as anyone else of being told how great they are, but as an Irish person, I find this more than a little disconcerting. It is like having your chastity praised by a brothel keeper, or your temperance and thrift eulogized by a drunken sailor. The whole thing would be funny if it did not raise the most uncomfortable question: Is it right to applaud the legacy of mass immigration from Ireland because the Irish are white and Christian?”

My parents came to America for jobs. They came here because of poverty. I heard my mother say many, many times, “Ireland has nothing.”

When I finally saw where we came from I agreed and said out loud to my dead parents, “Thank you mom. Thank you dad.”

And this was in 1995 when Ireland was doing well. Where we came from was not so well.

Recently my sister sent me two pages from the late 1800’s records from two churches - with references to grandparents. I asked what the X was and my sister said, “Hello. You didn’t know our parents and their parents couldn’t write?”

We have come a long way baby.

Well that New York Times article by Fintan O’Toole talks all about all these people who have come legally and illegally to America for a new life - for something.

So I would challenge you with the gospel - with the words of Jesus - who didn’t get into the Inn Place to be born. I challenge myself and all of us to take a look what’s in our mind, in our heart about all this.

What’s in my mind? I see these folks with Irish last names  - who want to deport people. I wonder: “Do we know our roots - and when are we going to start rooting for this new generation of Americans?”

Don’t we know history? Don’t we know one of the most common charges against  the Irish in the 19th century was “in the words of one Yankee, ‘Irishmen fresh from the bogs of Ireland’ were led to the polling booths ‘like dumb brutes’ to “’vote down intelligent, honest native citizens.’”

We’ve come a long way. Lots of immigrants  - legal and illegal - have made America great again and again and again.


The title of my homily is, “What’s going on in your heart today?” 

What’s in your mind today?

The mind and the heart are less than 12 inches from our mouths.

A good message could be: Think before we speak.

I’ve been thinking about this stuff for quite some time now. It’s past November so I can say some of these things - without being criticized as making this pulpit a bully pulpit - trying to get votes for a candidate.

Time helps one move from red to another color  - today green - the color of peace and serenity and grass with roots in the common brown earth we all come from. Our skins are our coat of many colors.

Dreamers keep this dream alive.


Cartoon on top:1850 cartoon mocking poor Irish immigrating to America.


Recently there was a study done on Irish names.

Kelly, Murphy, O This and O That, Mc this and Mc That, were in top 10 of Irish Names.

But surprise, Costello came in 23rd of the top 100 Irish names.

The statistics said there were 17,123,005 people in the world of Irish descent with the name Costello - but only 23 people in the world with the name Costello who were Italian, but still people keep thinking and asking, "Costello.... That's an Italian name isn't it?"

Hello!  My parents are both from Galway Bay - Ireland - and both spoke Gaelic. My mom always told us she could stick her big toe out the back door of their stone house and it was in Galway Bay.

So if you ever get to Ireland - maybe at the closing of your day - you'll spot signs and bars telling you where a place named Costello is - as well as a bar or two or three or four.

And yes, don't forget to kiss the Blarney Stone. It's not in Galway, but Galway does have plenty of stones - if you're into kissing.

Andy Costello, March 17, 2017

March 17, 2017


May your steps today
be neat as the feet
of an Irish dancer.

May your smile today make all
faces smile and the world becomes
miles and miles of Irish smiles.

May your blarney be so, so
thick that everyone thinks
and says, “Kiss me I’m Irish!”

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Thursday, March 16, 2017

March 16, 2017


As in olden times - there was this big
contest - to come up with the # 1
wisdom statement of all time.

There were many entries, but back then,
“This too shall pass!” won the contest.

This time another wisdom statement
won the day: “Everyone sees
differently - but everyone thinks
people see - what they are seeing.”

"Wait a minute," someone yelled out.
"I don't see it that way!"

"Wonderful," said the Judge. "You got
it. You too, have just won the contest."

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

March 15, 2017


As someone said, “There is no too soon,
there’s only too late.”  Augustine said the
same thing a long time ago, “Too late
have I loved You, O Lord…. Too late.”

Everyone knows, “There are too many
too lates in life.” As a result, “There
are too many regrets” in life. So today,
O Lord, before it’s too late, I will....

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Tuesday, March 14, 2017



The title of my homily for this 2nd Tuesday of Lent is, “The Pharisee Trap.”

Since today’s gospel has Jesus giving a loud warning to the Pharisees of his day, I thought I’d better take a good look at my own life.

When it comes to religion, any religion, there is always  the Pharisee Trap.

It’s more dangerous, the closer you get to the front of the church or temple or synagogue or mosque - or the higher one is above people. It’s no accident the phrase is: looking down on people.

Hey world, look at me - up here - above you.

As we heard in today’s first reading from Isaiah, widows and orphans are more important than the leaders of the community.

Yet we need readers and Eucharistic ministers - ushers as well as priests.

Smart Catholics are back seat Catholics. 

That’s not just a clever comment. Jesus said it first in the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. Notice in that parable, the one who says he’s the “sinner” is in the back of the temple. [Cf. Luke 18: 9-14.]

In my opinion - and I say this with hesitation and great caution - the only benefits that happened in the child abuse cases with priests is it hopefully made parents and guardians keep a much better eye on their kids and possible predators. That’s first and foremost. Secondly,  it gave priests a bit more chance for humility.  We were dropped down many a peg - to the bottom by some.


I read somewhere that jealousy is a priest’s sin. I don’t know if that’s true. I’ve wondered about that comment. Hearing the word “priest” in the comment - I would obviously notice  it - and keep my eye on it.  I would suspect  jealousy would show up in church and temple. People don’t want to lose what they have: prestige, power, recognition, etc. etc. etc.

So too envy. Envy is wanting what we don’t have.  Jealously is wanting to hold onto what we have.

Clergy - but I suspect everyone more or less has these  two temptations. We like the spotlight and we don’t want to lose it - or we want it. 

To be honest, the older one gets, the less one wants up front recognition. Been there; done that.

Besides jealousy and envy, Pharisees can be caught up in various other sins.

So another sin is misuse of power - when it comes to being up front in religion.

Religious leaders can put heavy burdens on others as we heard in today’s gospel - Matthew 23: 1-12 - and little on themselves.

Pharisees tend to not practice what they preach.  That’s why ethical breaches when it comes to sex and money appear in newspapers quite loud if the culprit is a priest, rabbi or minister.

Pharisees find it  easier not to listen if one is in power.

Power also goes to one’s head.  Everyone knows and quotes the British politician Lord Acton’s comment: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” 

Most people - at least I do - tend to leave out his next comment: "Great men are almost always bad men." 
How's that for a pretty tough generalization.

Laziness is one more sin of the clergy.

Take the example of preaching. It’s difficult to keep up with one’s reading.  It takes time and work and research to prepare homilies - and not give left overs or fast food precooked homilies from someone else, etc. etc. etc.  Sermons have to come from within. The preacher must do with what Isaiah says in today’s first reading: “Hear the word of the Lord.”  That means praying. I know I don’t do enough of that when preparing a homily.

Hypocrisy - acting - faking it - is also a sin of those who are up front when it comes to religion. The sanctuary can become a stage. To be honest, it helps to know the lines, because some days as priest can be a tough day and one sort of acts the part - rather than being the part. Or somedays I run out of gas - but the show must go on.


As I’m sure you just noticed - much of this was about being a priest.

Don’t throw stones - any or all of us - can get trapped in the Pharisee Trap.


Painting on top: James Tissot, Woe Unto You, scribes and Pharisees, Brooklyn Museum.
March 14, 2017


The flake of snow preferred
this state of being, this shape
of water - compared to being
a drop of rain or mist or dew
It loved the drift, the snow fall,
the sky diving moment, the
wondering where it would land.
Would it land in a flower pot or
on the edge of the lawn only to
become a snowman or a snow-
ball. Ouch! Fun! As long as it
didn’t hurt someone. Then the
long, slow,  snow time melt - the
journey to the sea, streams, river,
ocean, then like kids at the bottom
of a ski lift or folks getting into a
plane for more sky diving, the drop
of H2O said, “Let’s do it one more time
- but one more time as a snow flake.”

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Monday, March 13, 2017



The title of my homily for this 2nd Monday in Lent is, “Measuring.”

Today’s gospel - Luke 6: 36-38 -  is all about measuring!

Jesus says,
·       “Be merciful….”
·       “Stop judging….”
·       “Stop condemning….”
·       “Forgive….”
·       “Give….”

Jesus is challenging us to look at how we measure. Then today’s gospel closes with this strong message:   “For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you."

Take your pick - what message - do you want to reflect upon - and pray over for today?


I’m choosing to reflect upon the human tendency to measure things.

I hold that we’re doing this all the time - like all the time - and everyday - with everyone and everything.

If there was a camera on us all day long, we could take the video - study it - and count how many times per day, we wince our eyes - with a negative vote.

A wince is tiny flinch - a tiny movement - a tiny squeeze with the top of our nose, the side skin around our eyes, sometimes with a tiny, tiny sound of disapproval - “uunh” -  an impatience - a not-liking something.

What we’re seeing with our wincing eyes is something or someone that does not measure up to our standard - our expectation.

Key to this theme of measuring is comparisons.

We are comparing another’s weight, hair, shape, clothing, manner, mannerisms, to the ruler - and I mean ruler - inside our brain.

Comparisons rule us - they can cruel us -  making us cruel judges.

We inwardly think or say or judge, This is a good look, a good outfit, a good hair due. This isn’t.


I love the image - it fits my standard on what a good image, metaphor, picture is - that Jesus gives in today’s gospel.

He must have spotted in the market place a generous, large hearted, big picture, big smiling merchant  - who would fill your sack or bag or cloak with flour or grain or with whatever you were ordering - to the utmost.  He would pack it tighter and tighter. He would tapped it down, shake  it up and down, each time putting and more into your bag or robe.

Jesus is telling us that’s how God is. God is big time generous with love and forgiveness and mercy.

I wince  whenever  I hear narrow minded judgers - criticizers - moral screamers.

I pinch myself with joy knowing Jesus said just what he said in today’s gospel.

I’m going to jump into his robes when I get to heaven.

I love Nathaniel Hawthorne’s story about the lady who spent her life, “Tch, tch, tching” others. Whenever she heard someone was sinning or what have you - that was her sound. This other lady said to her, “Go out and commit a big sin and maybe then you’ll understand the rest of us.”

I love that the motto of the Redemptorists is, “Copiosa apud eum redemptio.”  “With him there is fullness of redemption.”

I have learned to love the word “copious”.

With Christ there is copious redemption.”

Of course we have all met grouchy Redemptorists - that have forgotten the vision of St. Alphonsus.

When they get off judgments that are tough and narrow and ugly,  I wince.

And I’m sure I cause people to wince.


The title and theme of my homily was, “Measuring.”

Check out your rulers today.
March 13, 2017


Hesitation: good or bad?

It all depends.  I could be
at a red light - want to make
that right turn on red - but
I can’t see enough around
the SUV on my left and
there was that accident
I had three years ago.

It all depends. I want to say,
“Loosen up!” to this person
at work. “Loosen up. Take a
chance. Take the other job.
Money isn’t the issue in life
that you make it - even with
your family saying, ‘No, no….’”

It all depends. Just drop into
a church - a creaky bench old
church - or go to the ocean
and sit on a bench on a cold
winter’s day. Maybe God’s
in there or out there waiting for
you to drop in or spot a wave.

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017
Photo on top: David Sandford, Lake Erie Pictures
Check out his blog:

Sunday, March 12, 2017


[The title of my reflection for this 2nd Sunday in Lent [A] is on today’s gospel is “Not Fair.”  Cf. Matthew 17: 1-9.]

Sometimes Jesus is not fair.

Sometimes life is not fair. God is not fair. Others are not fair. Those we live and work with:  they are not fair.

And I guess it’s important to learn about fairness - probably from the very beginning - when we are little kids - when we begin to notice the size of the other kids’ pieces of cake or amounts or ice cream in their bowl - compared to ours - and that can be pretty early on - even in high chair and wearing a baby bib times.

Sometimes there is a kid that never seems to check  other people’s plates. They just seem to enjoy the grey oatmeal  that they get - while an older sister always gets the colorful Fruit Loops. They love the Christmas present they get - the seat in the car they get. Good. They don’t scream that so and so got a better deal  - a better job - a better husband - a better wife - better children - a better life - a better piece of roast beef - even one with too much gristle.

Sometimes Jesus is not fair.

He only took Peter, James and his brother John up the mountain that day.

It was a beautiful day to climb a mountain.

Not all days are the same.

Some people think God is unfair.

Judas stood there looking at the backs of Peter, James, John and Jesus - getting smaller as they went up the dirt and rock trail that day.  Not fair.

Not fair being left behind….

Judas often had this itchy complaint about Jesus. He would inwardly grumble: “It seems that Jesus favors Peter. He seems to be afraid of the way James and John complain - so he caters to them too. And Peter’s brother Andrew seems to get left out - till Jesus needs to find out - if anyone in the  crowd has some bread.”

Judas  tended to whisper behind people’s back. Jesus whispered to himself a few times. “I think Judas thinks he made a wrong choice in following me.”

Judas whispered  to Matthew - and then Thomas - and then Philip, “Jesus doesn’t seem to like criticism - especially the criticism that he plays favorites.”

Jesus knew his disciples wanted to be looked up to - by the crowds - just as Jesus was looked up to - by some people in some crowds. And when Jesus said something that angered folks, his other apostles would think, “Stupid. Do miracles. Come up with more bread and more fish. You’re coming up with too many complaints from too many people. You’re going to get yourself crucified one of these days - and then what about us? “That’s an uh oh!”  That’s a, “Not fair!”

So Jesus left the crowds that day - as well as the other apostles - and took Peter, James and John up the mountain.

The higher they climbed, the more they could see.

Things become clearer - plainer - high above the plains - up there above the down below.

Peter felt good about being with Jesus up there on the mountain.

Mountain air can clear the nostrils and the brain - but it can also go to one’s head  with big thoughts.

Peter  could see the Sea of Galilee down below in the distance.

The smell of fish was no longer on his hands or in his robes.

Too often he fished all night and caught nothing - but ever since Jesus caught him - with that great catch of fish that morning - this was a good move - following Jesus. 

People knew him by name now. Nobody knew him when he was just a fisher of fish.  Everyone now knew him as a fisher of people - now that he was working the net with Jesus.

James and John felt great - being the other two chosen ones - on the mountain that day.

Their mother wanted them to be number one and two with Jesus - when Jesus  came into his kingdom - or whatever he was about.  Here they were two and three. Mom take a look us now.  The other guys are down below - not knowing what Jesus had in mind for us today. “Look at us - moving up the ladder of success and fame.”

The four stopped. They rested. They looked. They listened.

They saw Jesus’ face shine like the glisten off the granite rocks on the mountain. Jesus was transfigured before them.

Moses and Elijah - two of the great Hebrew prophets appeared - on the scene with Jesus - and Jesus was talking with them.

Woo, the 3 of them, Peter, James and John, were in the presence of greatness - Moses, Elijah, and Jesus - big time, star time, greatness.

3 simple fishermen - from that sea down there - were now high on the mountain - at the edge of greatness.

Peter burst out with the words, “Lord, it is good that we are here.  If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

Then this bright cloud cast a shadow over the whole scene and from the cloud they heard the words, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased, listen to him.”

This scared Peter. This scared James and John, known by those who knew them as the ‘Sons of Thunder.’”

They fell to the ground - very much afraid - but Jesus came and touched them and said, “Rise, and do not be afraid.”

They looked up and they saw no one else but Jesus.

The transfiguration of Jesus was over.

They had to climb back down the mountain.

What goes up, must come down.

The disfiguration of Jesus was about to begin - but Peter, James and John didn’t know that yet.

They wouldn’t know - what that day was about -  what his betrayal, his arrest and crucifixion - were about -  till way after Jesus was raised from the dead.

They walked back down the mountain - each of the 3 picturing themselves telling the other apostles - Peter telling his brother Andrew - James and John telling their mother and family members - what they saw that day.

They didn’t say to themselves, “Wow this will impress people!”

But they knew what everyone knows when they see a fire or a great movie or a great moment, “I need an audience.”

Jesus must have been reading their minds - he always seemed to do that to people - so Jesus said to them, “Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

And all three - hearing that - dropped their heads - and inwardly moaned and groaned, “Unfair. Unfair. Unfair.”

March 12,  2017


I know of Frost’s two roads
diverging in a yellow wood -
and I thought about an elevator
as a metaphor. It has its ups
and downs - but an elevator
is too linear and too literal.
So it struck me - a staircase
could be the better metaphor -
the better image - to sit there
on a step - it becoming the top 
or bottom step - depending 
if I make the choice to take 
the steps upwards towards the
light or to descend downwards
on the dark steps leading to 
the locked basement door.

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017