Saturday, March 25, 2017

March 25, 2017


God slipped into this world -
through Mary - light sliding
under a door - in a small
village - named Nazareth - not
too far from the Sea of Galilee.

The Word of God whispered
by the Holy Spirit - took flesh
and began slowly  to become
a baby - Jesus - Savior - born in
a stable. Mary was his Mother.

Jesus took his time - watching,
learning, growing in grace, wisdom
and understanding - till he finally
announced to the world, mercy
and mystery and the meaning of life.

The Light of the World continues
to slip and slide under doors - into
the dark corners of our minds and
the dark continues pushing sin - but
the dark has never put out the Light.

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Friday, March 24, 2017

March 24, 2017


When we stop being bothered
beware! We think arthritis in
one’s left hand or right foot
is painful - worse, much worse -
is arthritis of one’s conscience.

So when we can’t stand b.s.
or baloney constantly coming
out of the mouth of the person
in the podium or the pulpit,
rejoice that we are still bothered.

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Thursday, March 23, 2017

March 23, 2017

Everyone has a wish list.

I wish my dad ….
I wish my mom ….
I wish I lived in ….
I wish I didn’t say that ….
I wish he didn’t say that ….
I wish I had more ….
I wish we did ….
I wish things didn’t happen this way….
I wish I didn't have to put the dog down ....
I wish I was better in Math and ....
I wish God would ….
I wish life didn’t ….
I wish my ….
I wish I could see all the good that ....
I wish I had the ability to….
I wish I knew 10 years ago that ….
I wish I realized ….
I wish I filled my bucket with ....

Everyone - yes everyone - has a wish list.

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

March 22, 2017


It started way back when their high school
daughters and sons entered their senior
year of high school - probably much sooner.

“Have they decided yet on their top college?”
“What are there three top choices?
“Is there any scholarship money?”

At some point there is the scream, “Enough
already!” And that’s just the questions. There
is the leaving, the missing, the cost and more.

©  Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Tuesday, March 21, 2017


Once upon a time - a wise woman - in her early 60’s - but she looked like she was in her late 40’s - because she was a serious walker - well she came up with a million dollar idea.

She was at the beach - one beautiful summer evening with her granddaughter - and the two of them were just sitting there - finishing off -cold giant vanilla milk shakes. They were sitting on those hard wooden benches on the boardwalk - looking out at the ocean. But sometimes hard wooden benches are not even felt - on one’s butt - when you have a beautiful ocean right in front of you.

And the waves that evening were big and beautiful - crashing and splashing - like Schiller’s Ode to Joy at the end of Beethoven’s 9th  Symphony - or Louis Armstrong singing, “What A Wonderful World.”

Grandma said to her 11 year old granddaughter - Deborah - who was aware of everything - “What’s that man doing down there with the ear phones and some kind of stick with a plate on the end of the stick?”

“Grandma - haven’t you ever seen someone with a metal detector? He’s down here every evening searching for coins in the sand that people lost that day.”

“You’re kidding?”

“Nope. Just watch him. He’s getting rich by the minute. Look, there he goes. He probably just found another quarter. Notice how his backpack is getting bloated.”

“I just got a great idea Deborah - a million dollar idea.”

“What is it grandma? Tell me your secret. Tell me your million dollar idea?”

“I’m going to invent a hurt detector.”

“Great idea grandma. Great idea. Tell me more. I hurt sometimes.”

“Well Deborah, you know I’m a psychiatrist?”

“I knew that grandma. You’re a shrink. I’ve heard people talk about you behind your back and everyone says you’re great at what you do.  You have people coming to you with all kinds of problems, right?”

“Yep, that’s what I do.”

“I’ve noticed my two older sisters often talk to you when they have problems - and you  - well you just listen, listen, listen. Nice.”

“Well, Deborah, sometimes I use the old couch method of helping people - not all the time - but sometimes - especially when people don’t seem to be telling me -  what’s bothering them.”

“You have a couch in your office?  Do people ever fall asleep.”

“Yes to your first question. And yes to your second question.”

Deborah then asked, “Okay grandma, pretend that I’m a psychiatrist. Close your eyes and tell me all about your hurt detector?”

 “Okay, everybody has deep down hurts in their life  that they can’t deal with, but they keep them in - and hurts are covered with sandpaper - when they rub someone the wrong way.”

“Well, I’m going to have a person lay down on my couch. I’m going to take out my stethoscope and show it to the person I’m with - calling it my “Hurt Detector”. And like the man there with the metal detector -  I’ll move it around their skull and ask them, ‘Where do you hurt?’ Or, ‘Tell me about something someone did to you that you can’t forgive - or something you did, that you can’t forgive yourself for?”

“Their eyes will be closed as I move my stethoscope around the top of their head. But,  I’ll be watching their face very, very carefully.”

“As they are thinking, I’ll see their face or their closed eyes, squint or squeeze at certain moments. I’ll spot hurt signals from their minds - showing up on the skin  of their face.”

“Actually I do this already, but now I’ll have a gadget - which I’ll call my ‘Hurt Detector’. I hope I don’t get sued. I’ll run this by a few people.”

“Then I’ll say - when I see them wince or flinch. ‘That one. Tell me what you were thinking about just then.’ And just then - they’ll tell me about some hurt memory. It will be a divorce or a teacher or a coach whom they thought was unfair to them. Or they will tell me about something they did dumb to hurt someone else somewhere along the time line of their life.”

“Then, and this might surprise you Deborah, but I’ll tell them about Jesus’ great message of forgiveness. Forgiveness is not for the other person for starters, but for the person who can’t forgive or be forgiven.”

Deborah said, “You’re going to give them religion. I thought you were a psychiatrist and not a priest?”

The answer once more is ‘Yes’ to your first question and ‘Yes’ to your second question.

“Deborah,” her grandma said, “everyone needs to learn how to forgive and be forgiven - at least 77 times in their life time as Jesus put it. That means a lot of times.  Otherwise the hurt messes up one’s soul and body - and that’s where millions in health care will be saved. The stuff of the soul can hurt the stuff of the body - so that’s why I said this is a million dollar idea.”

“Interesting grandma.”

“Yes,  Deborah, thanks.”

“You’re a good listener, Deborah. Maybe one day you’ll be a psychiatrist.   When thinking about forgiveness - people always put things out there - into God and into others.  Jesus and my hurt detector will get people finding out that it’s what’s under the sand of our soul - or what’s in our inner room as Jesus put it, that counts.” 


NOTES:  This is a story I wrote last night for a reflexion on the gospel for this 3rd Tuesday in Lent, Matthew 18: 21-35.   © Andy Costello, Stories, 2017

March 21, 2017

Who said Jesus didn’t have a sense of humor?
He must have smiled when the last wine became
the best wine - even though it was watered down.
He had to smile when the first invited to the feast
ended up without the feast - because they didn’t
show -  and the last - those found in the outback
and in the hedgerows - ended up in the first row.
The poor, the hungry, the lame made it to the dance.  
Life is funny, with Jesus, if you learn to laugh at life,
especially if you say yes to his invitations to be there.

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Monday, March 20, 2017


We need heroes  - male and female.

We need examples - male and female.

We need models -  male and female.

It seems that the word, “heroine” has dropped out - and that our heroes can be male and female.

Just walk into any home, business, organization, government building, church - and we’ll see images of heroes - people who are examples and models of the values of that organization or that family.

Statues, pictures, images of great people sit atop of horses and pedestals in our parks and museums and government buildings - as well as churches.

Today we celebrate Joseph as hero.

He was the model husband, father figure, protector of Mary and Jesus.

In the scriptures he gets little press, but the press that he gets, says he was righteous.  Since that sometimes has negative connotations, I prefer saying, “He got it right.” It says he was a dreamer. He was a presence. He was a protector.

In the history of the Church - he comes down as a hero.  He is an example of a good worker - a carpenter.

He is a dreamer - and I wonder if this is a way in the scriptures of connecting him to the great Joseph - the Master Dreamer - as he is described in the book of Genesis. That Joseph gets a lot more press - and a lot more information about his personality.

Most Catholics have images of St. Joseph - always off to the side - background security for Jesus and Mary. I say off to the side also, because in many Catholic Churches his statue or picture is off to the side.  We’ve all heard people talk about the St. Joseph side of the church and Mary’s side of the church. Here at St. John Neumann - as well as St. Mary’s - St. Joseph is on the left - facing the front of the church and Our Lady of Perpetual Help on the Right facing the altar.

In our time Joseph has become best known in popular myth and meaning as the statue to bury upside down in your yard - or flower pot - if you want to sell your house. I’ve heard people say, “It works.”

I don’t po po that, because I think religion needs humor - the ability to laugh at all kinds of stuff.  Mine is to laugh at bishop’s hats and cardinal’s outfits.

I rather see Joseph as the patron of fathers as presence and protector.

I rather see Joseph as worker - a great stress when the communist party was stronger in Italy and Europe.

I rather see Joseph as the Patron of a Happy Death - I assume and assumption based on Joseph being older than Mary and dying somewhere in there before Jesus’ public ministry.

What’s next?

In reading the work - the writings of Elizabeth Johnson - who is a Sister of St. Joseph - from around my time at OLPH Brooklyn - taught by the Josephites - I see she explores more and more the feminine and mother side of God.  Pope John Paul the 1st, Albino Luciani, spoke about that as Cardinal and a tiny bit as pope. He only lasted a month. We are made in the image and likeness of God - male and female he made us.

All my life as priest I have wondered about the Catholic Church’s great stress on Mary - and I wonder - wonder - that’s the word I’m using. I do not know what I am talking about when it comes to this. But I wonder if because we stress the masculinity of God - the femininity of God has to show up somewhere. Protestants think we see Mary as God. We don’t. But I wonder about all this at times. I see the feminine side of God in Mary and I Hope we all see God in all of us - male and female.

So if we explore the feminine side of the image of God, will Joseph get more stress - on the masculine side?  
I don’t know.


Ooops I neglected to say more on Joseph as hero - the title of this homily - maybe not. He is someone we look up to. Amen.

March 20, 2017


Interesting word, “notwithstanding”….
Would whoever came up with that word,
please stand up and tell us what it means?

Different  dictionaries report that it goes
back to the 14th and 15th century and means
“however” - “inspite of” - “nevertheless.”

Notwithstanding understanding this word,
people without any standing or credentials
have stood up and screamed out the truth.

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

by John Shea

“Jesus was tired and he sat by the well.
It was noon.” 
John 4:6

Those who have ears to hear, hear this story. Those who have eyes to see, see this, scene. Anything can happen at a well.

The man who was sitting on the small stone ledge that circled the well slid off, turned to the woman who had just arrived, smiled and said, “I'm thirsty.”

She had seen him at a distance. She had stopped to readjust the yoke which straddled her shoulders. A bucket hung from both ends of the yoke, and when her steps were not perfect, and they seldom were, the wood cut into the flesh along the nape of her neck. She took the pain for granted, but from time to time she stopped to shift the weight to more callused skin. From bruise to bruise, she thought, it was as she straightened from her bent posture, to gauge the last ground left before the well, that she saw him. He appeared to be waiting for her.

Her mind raced. She thought of turning around and making for the village. But if he wanted to, he could easily overtake her and take what he wanted. Then, she cursed. Why did she not come earlier in the day with the other women? She knew why. But right now that humiliation looked better than this danger.

Then a plan formed out of her panic. She could see by his dress that he was a Jew and he would probably walk away. Most likely after some quick insult and with a great show of disdain. If not, she could make him go. She would steel herself, hide her mind, harden her heart. She knew how. She had been there before. It was not the first time.

“I'm thirsty,” the man said again.

It was so blatant it took her back. At a distance she could manage him in her mind. Up close his presence  was almost too much. But she recovered quickly. “Who isn't? This sun would fry a lizard's tongue.”

“Give me a drink'

“You - a Jew and a man—ask me—a Samaritan and a woman - for a drink?” I have a simpleton on my hands she thought.

“Thirst makes friends of us all;' the simpleton said, “I will help.”

Before she could protest, he moved the lid off the top of the well and stood waiting for her to give him the bucket.

“I'll do it,” she said.

She let the bucket fall down the well. The splash rang up from below. She swung the rope sideways till the bucket at the bottom tipped and filled. Then with quick, succes­sive jerks she pulled it to the top.

The man waited at her side. He said nothing.

If he thinks he is going to be first, she thought, he thinks wrongly. This is our well and it is my bucket. He will learn who he is here.

She rested the bucket on the ledge, hunched over it and splashed water toward her mouth. She drank like an animal that had been worked too long in the sun. All the time her eyes darted from the water to the silent man at her side. He was smiling. The simpleton has missed the meaning, she thought.

When she was done, she stepped back. The man did not move. She waited, then, finally, jerked her arm toward the bucket. Slowly he cupped his hands, dipped them deep into the bucket, and brought the water to his mouth. As he drank, his face was turned up into the sun and the water ran and glistened in his beard. He drank like a bridegroom,  loving the first cup of wedding wine.

With his lips still wet from the water the man turned to her. “If you would ask me, I would give you living water.”

“The well is deep.” Her tone was instructional. She felt as if she were giving a child a lesson in logic. “You do not have a bucket. Therefore, how do you propose to fetch the water?”

“Yokes and buckets are always the problem, aren't they?” said the man. His arms flew up in the air in exas­peration.

A smile popped open her eyes, but her lips stayed tight and disapproving. Not a simpleton, she thought, a child. Just a child.

The child had a question. “Do you have a husband?”

The question slapped across her face. Not a child, she thought. A man, just another man. “I have no husband.”

“True enough,” said the man. “For you have had, ah, five husbands and the husband you have now is not your husband.”

“Do you have a wife?” she spat back.

“I have no wife,” said the man.

“True enough,” the woman said. “And the woman you had last night was not her either.”

The man laughed, like someone had taken him and turned him upside down. He is enjoying this, she thought, but not for long.

“Besides, prophet, the number is not five but twelve.”

“I was never good at numbers.”

“One for each tribe of Israel,” she said and thought that would do it.

“Very pious of you,” said the man. “Very pious.”

This time she could not catch the laugh in her teeth and swallow it back. It escaped and howled out loud like a prisoner finally free in the sun.

“You are very hard to get rid of,” she said, but now she wasn't sure whether she wanted him to go.

Everyone says that,” said the man.

One more try, she thought, and this Jew, like every other man, will surely leave me. “Tell me, 0 prophet, who is not very good at numbers, where should we worship the living God? On the mountain or in the Temple?”

The man grew silent and closed his eyes. He seemed to be traveling deep within himself to some sanctuary where she could not follow. So this is it, thought the woman. It will be in the name of the living God that he will spurn me.

When the man opened his eyes, he caught hold of the woman's hand. “God is not on the mountain, but in your thirst. God is not in the Temple, but in the scream of your spirit, and it cries to me. Ask me, ask me for a drink.”

Not just another man, she thought. Not just another man.

She pulled her hand back. I don't ask.” She said it as if her whole life was in every word.

“Even without a bucket—if you ask me, I will give you living water.”

So they sat on the ledge of the well under the sun which shines on good and bad alike. They spoke no words. Finally he reached out for her hand. She let him take it.

“Give me a drink,” she whispered.

“What,” said the man, “you—a woman and a Samari­tan—ask me—a Jew and a man—for a drink?”

“Thirst makes friends of us all,” she said and smiled.

The man took her hands in his and formed them into a cup. Together their hands dipped deep into the bucket and brought a cradle of water to her lips. She drank it slowly, with her head back, her face open to the sky. She drank like a deer with the thirst of summer, like a field parched by drought, like a desert wanderer finally at home.

With her lips still wet she said to the man, “Sometimes the yoke and
buckets cut into my flesh so bad I want to yell with pain, but I never do.”

“I know.”

Then she told him all about the husbands who were not husbands. She told him everything she ever did. Ev­erything she ever did she told him. All the time she spoke, she cried.

When she was finished, he said, “I know.” Then he told back to her everything she ever did. Everything she ever did he told back to her. All the time he spoke, he rubbed the nape of her neck where the marks of the yoke were the most punishing.

It was just as he had finished his revelation of her to herself that she saw the other men. His friends were com­ing towards them. “They will be scandalized to see me here with you.” By now he held her in his arms.

“Probably,” the man said.

“I must go.” She eased out of his embrace and moved gracefully away from him. As she walked away, she turned often to look at him.
Whenever she did, she always found him looking at her. Even when his companions gathered around him, he stood on the ledge of the well and watched her go. Finally, she was so far away she could not watch him watching her.

Then she could not get to the village quickly enough. Once there, she went from house to house and told people about a man who was not just another man who taught her how to drink. It was only after she had stirred up the entire village that she realized she had left her yoke and buckets at the well and for the first time in memory was not thirsty.

The curious villagers formed a circle around her. She stood in the middle and proclaimed: “I met a man who told me everything I ever did—except how many times.”

And she laughed high and long. Some of the villagers said it sounded like she had a fountain of living water spring­ing up inside her.

Let those who have ears to hear, hear this story. Let those who have eyes to see, see this scene. Anything can happen at a well.


Borrowed without permission from © John Shea, Stories, Acta Publications, 2008, 5559 W. Howard Street, Skokie, Il 60077, pp. 261-271.  I add this to my blog, because I heard John Shea tell this story when I made two of his workshops in the Chicago area. I would recommend his “stuff” - it’s great stuff - for spiritual reading. After writing and reading my version yesterday instead of a homily for the 3rd Sunday in Lent,  I went and found his story and compared it to mine. Jokingly I said from the pulpit, John Shea’s version and the Gospel of John’s version of the story makes my version: “Lite John 4: 5-42."

Sunday, March 19, 2017


“Mam, it’s a hot day. Can I get you a drink of cold water.”

“Yes, you can. Thank you.”

And the young woman got the old woman a jug of cold water from the well.

And the old woman said, “Do you have time?”

And the young woman said, “Yes.”

“Well, pardon the pun, can I tell you a story about that well right there?”

“Yes, you can. Thank you,” said the young woman - who sat down - next to the old lady - on a chair - just outside the old woman’s house - both of them drinking nice cold well water on a hot, hot day.

They were facing the well.

It was about noon.

“Many, many years ago a man at that very same well asked me the very same question you asked me - but in reverse,  ‘Could you give me a drink of water?’”

“He was all by himself. His disciples had gone into town. That’s where I lived then - in town - but I live out here now - right close to the well - the  place where my life changed.”

Pointing, she said, “I was walking up that  road there - and I spotted someone at the well.”

“He was just sitting there - looking down into the waters of the well.”

“He looked up when he sensed someone was coming towards the well.”

“I always went there at noontime - because the women in the village didn’t like me or trust me. When I walked by, I could see them hold onto their husbands arms a bit more tighter - especially when the men gave me the look - the once over. Honey,  I didn’t have all these wrinkles way back then - way back when.”

“Who was he  and what was his name?” the young woman asked.

“His name was Jesus.”

“I didn’t know that at the moment.”

“I thought it strange that a man would talk to a woman - especially a Samaritan woman - a woman who was labeled a Bad Samaritan.”

“Anyway, he asked me for a drink of water - and I gave him one.”

“But first, he began talking about another kind of water, and I had no clue what he was talking about.”

“I was to discover that he was  a dreamer - a prophet - a holy man. You should have seen his eyes. Woooooo! Wooo! He could look right through you and see every secret of the soul.”

“And he didn’t make me nervous. Instead, he woke up and shook up and stirred up deep instincts inside of me.”

“He knew about my 5 husbands - and the man I was living with at the time - who was not my husband.”

The young woman said, “Wait! What did you just say. Run that by me again. You had 5 husbands - 6 men. Wow. You must have been a legend in your time.”

“More than a legend honey. More than a legend.”

By now the young woman had turned sideways - to look at - and hear every word the old woman told her and watch every expression on her face and every gesture of her hands and body.

She was waking up deep instincts and deep interests in the young woman’s soul.

“Well, his name was Jesus. He was a prophet and a preacher - and he told me everything I ever did.”

“I gave him water from that well - that day.”

“He opened up a well -  deep, deep inside of me - from which sprang living water - a well that is within each of us.”

Pointing to her heart, the old woman continued, with great joy in her eyes and words,  “The springs of living water - which can give all of us eternal life - are here within me and within you, honey - all our life - but many of us don’t know this - and the springs are often blocked up.”

There was a long pause after that comment.

The old woman continued, “That happened to me that day - at that well [POINTING] - and every day ever since.”

The young woman said, “What was his name again?”

“Jesus. His name was Jesus.”

Then the old lady continued, “I’m surprised you never heard of him.”

“Thanks to me, I’m bragging here, he stayed here for two more days, talking to anyone who wanted to listen. And many of those who listened had the same experience I had. Praise God. Then he left with his disciples and preached throughout Galilee and then down to Jerusalem - where they killed him.”

“Killed him?

“Yes killed him - because he was a dreamer as I said - and a prophet as I said….  And they kill prophets. They always do.”

“After that I told everyone I ever met about the man who told me everything I ever did.”

“And some followed him - like I’m still following him.”

“What do you mean,” the young woman asked,  “followed him?”

“Well that man - I met at that well - right there - in this spot - [POINTING] - saved me. In time - it takes time - a life time - well I learned - he is the Lord. He is the Savior. He is the Living Water. He is the Bread of Life. He is the Light of the World. He is God who walked amongst us - of all places - here in Palestine.”


“That’s what I believe and that’s what I now know.”

And after he died - after he was crucified - he rose from the dead - and ascended back to heaven - to God his father.

“You’re kidding. [PAUSE] No, it looks like you’re serious - very serious.”

Then the old lady  - figuring she said a whole well full of words - for this young woman to drink and savor - and hopefully swallow, knew she better make her main message - which she had told hundreds and hundreds of people at this very spot - so far - right within eye sight of the well. “And there are many of us - here and there - here in Palestine - and there in some of the Greek cities - who meet to celebrate his presence in our midst - the well of living water that never runs out - as well as the bread of life and the living cup of salvation - and then live his life in love and in service to the full.”

“And, oops, a little bragging here,” the old woman said to the young woman, “Two of the men who I told about Jesus to - who came back to this well that day - both Samaritans like me -  became part of the story telling  of Jesus. He loved to tell about  the Good Samaritan and the 10th Person with Leprosy, the only one who came back to thank Jesus for his healing.”

“So honey thanks for the water - now you know all my secrets.” 

The young  woman was crying.

The old lady asked, “How about your soul - can you sense what’s going on in your soul right now.”

The young woman was now crying some of that living water.  Tears were flowing down her face.  She told the old woman, “Thank you. Thank you. There are so many things in my soul that I haven’t listened to all these years. As you spoke I could hear trickles of water starting to drip, drip in my soul. Thank you.”

The old lady said, “Thank me? No thank Jesus for bringing you to this well today. That’s what happened to me that one day in my life that  changed every day in my life after it.”

“And if you want, we secretly meet here at my house every Sabbath for the Eucharist and some food - and we have great water - just 30 yards away.” 


Painting on top: Judith Fritchman, Living Water: The Woman at the Well, 2008

* Story by Andy Costello, [© Andy Costello - Stories 2017]

March 18, 2017


Some people “hate” meetings!
I get that - if they are boring and
we’re stuck at some big table and
someone is pushing their agenda -
without anyone listening to anyone -
except some muffled yawns.
Yet, everyone has one agenda.
Clock on the wall…. Move it.

Some people “love” meetings! I get that
- if they are the ones we meet with friends - 
or get things done - or we learn a key thing
at the water fountain. Or we got on the right elevator at the right time and surprise two years later we marry that person who got on that elevator with us at the same time.*

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

* Based on a true story