Saturday, April 8, 2017


Lord Jesus,
this week we walk with you into Holy Week:
Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday.

Holy Thursday: we hear Last Supper words
of love and bearing fruit,
as well as hints of denial and betrayal.
With washed feet we receive you:
bread and wine, body and blood.
We walk with you one last time,
this time hearing the call for Garden prayer.
We fall asleep unable to watch
and pray one hour with you.
We run away from you,
as you are being betrayed by a kiss.

Dark Friday: we hide there
the next day in the shadows,
trying to get glimpses of you,
crucified on wood with words
and spit and nails.
You die -- bleeding words of thirst,
forgiveness and letting go.

Empty Saturday: we sulk there in the silence,
filled with doubts -- doubts that any of this
has any meaning,
not yet knowing resurrection. 
We began this week with palm branches
and Hosannas;
we end this week with anxious empty silence. 
Our upper rooms, our minds,
are filled with fear and lack of peace

Sunday: we walk backwards
talking only about yesterday,
not yet knowing the meaning of today! 
Amen! Come Lord Jesus!
You break through our walls;
you walk into our thoughts;
you stand on our shores;
you break bread and words with us again. 
Slowly, the whole story
begins to take on meaning. 
Slowly, we rise from our sleep,
beginning to know that all of this
had to happen this way. 
We begin to see that life
is celebration and Hosannas,
passion and pain, death and resurrection. 
Life is love and bearing fruit;
life is betrayals and denials;
life is death and then
the hope of resurrection. 

Amen! Come Lord Jesus!

©  Markings Prayers, Andy Costello
April 8, 2017


Listen to one person no one listens to ….
Say, “Can I get you a glass of water?”....
Look deep into  another’s eyes - far back ….
Drop into a holy place - any religion ….
Wave to an old person in a window ….
Hold a door for someone - with a smile ….
Call someone - “How are you doing?” ….
Study a face - wonder about their inner room ….
Pick up 2 pieces of litter ….
Walk around the block ....

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Friday, April 7, 2017



The title of my homily for this 5th Friday in Lent  is, “Weapons of Choice.”

That theme - that reality - hit me when I read  the first sentence in today’s first reading and the first sentence in today’s gospel.

The first reading from Jeremiah begins, “I hear the whisperings of many. Terror on every side! Let us denounce him.”

Whisperings. Announcing denouncements against someone can be very strong weapons.  In Jeremiah’s case he says, “All those who were my friends are on the watch for any misstep of mine. ‘Perhaps he will be trapped; then we can prevail, and take vengeance on him.’”

The gospel from John begins, “The Jews picked up rocks to stone Jesus.”

When I was in Israel in January of 2000, I notice the rocks - especially in the more desert like south. Rock, stones, that can break lots of bones.

We have all seen enough TV riots - with people picking up anything they can pick up and throw - rocks and water bottles and soda cans and signs and barriers at the police or whoever.

The title of my homily is, “Weapons of Choice.”


When I meet with couples who are planning on getting married, we go through a Pre-Marriage Survey. It’s a 165 questions.  One question I ask off the paper is, “What is your weapon of choice?”

Couples look at me weird when I ask that - and I have found out it’s a good question.  I have found out that most people are unaware of their weapon of choice.

It could be silence. It could be cursing and yelling back at the other. It could be talking behind the other’s back. It could be passive aggression. It could be sleeping on the couch. It could actually be throwing things.

I don’t know what the statistics are for 100 police phone calls: how many are domestic violence?

Someone recently robbed two things from St. Mary’s church building: the tabernacle key and a Roman Missal - just like the one here on our altar.

“Let’s go to the video tape,” as Warner Wolf the TV sports announcer used to put it.

Ann Marie - in our office - went to our surveillance cameras and sure enough - they have excellent cameras   - there was a guy walking around the church - going into the sacristy - going into the safe - and walking out the church with the sacramentary book or Roman Missal - and seeing someone putting it under his jacket.

He has since been arrested. I don’t know what they have recovered.

Question: if your house - if the places you enter - if your car - was bugged - what would we see? What would we hear?

Next week is Palm Sunday and Good Friday.

Every person has their Palm Sunday Parade - when we’re honored - whether it’s going down the aisle getting married - whether it’s our birthday or anniversary or a good day - when we’re getting good press - then there are our Good, or better, our Bad Fridays, when we are crucified.

I hold that one of the central messages of the cross is this: “Hello, this is what we do to one another.”

Someone hurts us and we get back by whispering, gossip, silence or passive aggression. We sabotage another. We crucify one another.


Jesus has many messages  about all this.

He tells us to go the extra mile. He tells us to turn the other cheek.  He tells us to answer evil with good. He tells us from the cross, “Father forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.”

The world answers aggression with aggression - bombing - what have you.

How do we answer behavior in others that we don’t accept?

Christ tells us what to do - and he shows us how to do it.
April 7, 2017


Intangible - God - yet God
created this world, the Invisible
gave us the visible - sunrises - the
taste of tangerines, the tangible.

Intangible - God - yet the Spirit of God
breathed into clay - and we were created - female and male we were created - 
created in the image and likeness of God.

Intangible - God - yet Jesus
told Thomas to put his hand
into Jesus'  side saying, “Believe,
Thomas, believe the unbelievable.”

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017



The title of my homily is, “The Pause That Can Make Us a Saint.”


To be human - means we pause.

To be smart - means we take time out - when needed.

It’s wise to say, “Give me some time.”

It’s wise to say, “Wait a minute. Let me think about this.”

It’s wise to say, “Wait a minute.  Wait a moment.  Wait.  Let me think about all this.”

That’s what I did - so as to prepare this homily - this sermon - these comments.

I paused and thought about what might be helpful for today.

A retreat day is a pause.

The junior retreat which is coming up - is a pause.

The Kairos Retreats are a pause.


Years ago - when a kid was being bad - parents might spank them.

They figured the kid was being dumb - but he or she would /could feel hurt - on their back side - and maybe then they would think before they act.

Someone else said, “Wait a minute. Pause. Think about it.  Wouldn’t it be better if the kid was punished by being asked to sit in the corner - or ‘Go to his or her room’.  Maybe then they would pause and think about what they did to others - or that they lied - or were not being cooperative.”

Someone else said, “That didn’t work for my kids - but a good spanking did work.”  Others said, “That never worked for me nor for my kids - but the silent treatment  often worked.

What works for you?

Pause and think about your life.


Taking time outs is a skill.

In sports you only have so many time outs - and if you challenge a call - and they look at the video tape - sometimes the coach who screamed - ends up losing a time out.

A pause - a time out  - a thinking about it - can help.


A significant moment in life happened one Sunday morning in Erie, Pennsylvania. I was preaching at all the Masses for a weekend - about attending a week long parish mission in that parish.

Evidently the pastor forgot to tell a “helping out” priest for the 9 AM Sunday morning Mass that I was going to be preaching.  He came into the sacristy about 8:40 AM and asked who I was.  I said, “Oh I preaching at the 9 AM Mass about attending the upcoming parish mission.”

His face tightened up and he turned and walked out.

I immediately said to myself, “Uh oh. I guess the pastor didn’t tell him that I was preaching this weekend.”

He came back at 5 to 9 and told me, “Sorry. I didn’t know that you were preaching.”  Then he added, “I have a short fuse, so I learned to walk away when I am about to explode. So I just walked around the block two times.”

After Mass he told me that he had been in Atlanta the night before and didn’t get back till 10 PM - did a little work on a homily  and then got up that morning at 6 AM to finish his homily. If I knew you were preaching I would have gotten a lot more sleep.”

I said, “Ooops. Sorry.”

Well, his homily to me was, “Instead of losing it, walk away from explosive mistakes and catch one’s breath.”

Translation: “Pause!”


Ginny asked me to talk a little bit to you about saints.

So let me talk about the power of pause in the lives of a few saints.

The priests in this parish are Redemptorists.

Our founder, Saint Alphonsus de Liguori was a lawyer.

Once he lost a big law case and he went into the pits.

We were taught that he missed a key thing in his study in a law suit about land. Later on we heard a theory that the other side bribed someone and got the case settled in their favor. This is what killed Alphonsus.

So his life went into pause mode. He went into his room and cried a few days. Depression sunk in.

In that devastation, he decides to become a priest.

He becomes a priest, works his butt off, becomes sick, so to recover his friends suggest he take a vacation down on the Amalfi Coast. He does and while there, someone tells him there are goat herders up in the hills above Amalfi - that no priests seem to care about and what have you.

He checks out the story and discovers folks up in the hills who could use a priest  much more than folks in Naples.

That pause at Amalfi changes his life. In 1732 he forms a group of priests and brothers who are to go to places where there are no priests.

That’s how we got to Annapolis. There were no priests here before 1853. Jesuits would come up at times and say Mass at the Charles Carroll property.

The second saint would be a guy named Saint Clement Hofbauer. He paused and looked at the need for priests in Vienna Austria in the 1780’s - who were not in control of the state. He paused and looked at his life. He went down to Italy and he and a buddy, Thaddeus Hubl,  said they would go to the first church whose bells they heard on a Sunday morning. They went to a Redemptorist Monastery and the rest is history.

They were ordained in 1785 and went back to Vienna - but couldn’t get through the red tape to be priests in Vienna - and under control of Emperor Joseph, so they went to Warsaw and started our community up there.  They grew and grew but were booted out of Poland.

So Clement went back to Vienna and started us up there - and we steadily grew - but with a lot of struggle. Clement died in Vienna on March 15, 1820.

In time the bishop of Cincinnati wrote to Vienna and asked if some of our priests could come and help the Germans there. There was a shortage of priests.

Sure enough in 1832 six Redemptorists came to the United States and the rest is history.

The next saint would be Saint John  Neumann who came to the United States to become a diocesan priest in New York. He was ordained on June 25, 1836 and was sent way up to churches near Buffalo New York.

He worked hard - but he paused. He realized he wanted companionship and community  - so he joined the Redemptorists and was professed on January 16, 1842.

Next would be an almost Saint, a priest name Blessed Peter Donders. He wanted to come to the United States as a missionary - but that didn’t work at first - but someone told him about Surinam in South America. He paused and thought about it - and that’s where he was sent - arriving in Paramaribo on September 16, 1842.

Then someone in Rome said, “Let’s let the Redemptorists do the whole place, so Peter Donders would have to go back to Holland.

He was working hard with people who had leprosy, with Native people  besides Parish work. So he became a Redemptorist in 1867.


All these men had to pause to look at life and people in need.

If you want to be a saint, I’m suggesting in this homily to pause and look around you.

From time to time, pause to look at mom’s face or dad’s face or a teacher’s face and watch how they are doing. Then approach them from time to time and ask them how they are doing. Ask them can you help them with their work.

From time to time pause to look at how other kids in the bus or car or van are doing. Learn faces. Ask folks how they are doing.

From time to time, if you have  great chocolate chip cookies or what have you and dare to share with them.

I think about my dad. He was the quietest person I ever met.

As I look about on my life, that’s a regret that I didn’t talk to my dad enough. But as I look back I realize he said a lot without words.

Every Sunday he took us to the park. He did that to give my mom a break from us four kids.

I noticed that we complained.

But I noticed that my brother did the same with his 7 daughters. He would take them to DC on Sunday morning to give his wife, Joanne, a break. And they complained. And I noticed they have done the same with their kids.

Pause. Giving oneself or others is a wonderful break to give people.

Pause. Stopping to look at one’s life is a smart move.

Pause. Looking around when you pause is a smart move.


I have a theory that God is the great pause.

He created this great big world of ours and now he’s pausing to see how and what we’re doing with his gifts. Amen. 

Thursday, April 6, 2017

April 6, 2017


There are some who don’t believe in a
heaven or hell - an afterwards - becoming
atheists-  throwing out God - to boot.

There are some who don’t know
they believe in a heaven or hell -
here and now - in their inner circus.

There are some, you can follow them -
and you’ll hear them say, “The hell
with you!” - or “Go to hell - you ____.”

There are some, you can watch them.
They want Paradise - Heaven - Love -
here and now  - in their inner circle.

There are some - who learn, who change -
who convert - moving from hell to heaven -
and some who give up and go to hell.

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

I made up two new words for this reflection:
ahellists and aheavenists.  We all know the word
atheists.  All three words begin with the
so called, "Privative Alpha".  Alpha is the first
letter in the Greek alphabet.
Alpha-Privative words are words that have
the prefix "a" before a consonant and "an"
before a vowel. Notice the word privative.
The privative-alpha takes away from the
rest of the word. Some examples:
agnostic, without knowing. We are
unable to have knowledge of God.

Abyss - means without a bottom.

Anorexia - without the desire for food.

Amorphous - without a form.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

April 5, 2017


The dead dry leaves caught in
the bushes on the edge of the
lawn envied the young budding
leaves of Spring in the trees.

Officially,  they said to one another,
“Been there, done that, back then.”
But the creep of envy underneath
their comments could be felt by all.

Going to weddings, seeing couples
holding hands, the rich getting richer,
my team didn’t improve, envy
breezes through the air every Spring.

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Tuesday, April 4, 2017



The title of my homily is, “To Know What’s Killing Us.”

Have we ever said, “This is killing me!”?

It could be work - overdoing it. It could be - being out of work - and we are feeling the stress of not being able to get a job. It could be laziness, no exercise, letting our bodies sink deeper and deeper into couches or Lazy Boy chairs.  It could be our kids on their cell phones - all the time - and nobody is listening to anyone - and that causes us agita - agita. It could be alcohol or overeating. It could be addiction to solitaire - or TV - or porn - or what have you. Name your poison.

It could be aging parents - and nobody in the family is helping - and I feel stuck with that job. But helping them is not what’s killing me. What’s killing me  is that the my brothers and sisters don’t do squddily squat - and my parents are always raving how good they are.

It  could be envy, anger, fear, worry, lack of trust - negativity - negativity - negativity.

Have we ever said, “This is killing me!”?


In today’s first reading from the Book of Numbers it’s the saraph snakes in the desert. They are killing folks.  People are being bit and they are dying.
So Moses orders that someone make a bronze snake and mount it on a pole and point at it and tell the folks, “This is what is killing you - being bit by this snake - this serpent. So watch where you walk and check your tent site.

In today’s gospel Jesus says sin is what is killing you. Not believing who Jesus is - is what is killing you - but if I be lifted up - if you realize that I am the Son of Man - if your realize I AM - the one sent from the Father - if you believe in me - then you will be saved - and not condemned.


The title of my homily is, “To Know What’s Killing Us.”

We need to know that - as well as knowing what will save us - better who will save us.

So the medical profession puts the snake on the pole as their emblem - that we go to the doctor to find out what’s killing us.

So our Christian churches put images of Christ on the Cross to tell the world, “Christ is the one who will save us.”  Christ is the great doctor and healer of our souls.

So they point to Christ on the pole saying: this is what we do to each other when we do nasty to each other - but we can also hear from the cross - the great message of forgiveness. We don’t know where we are doing.


The paradox of the cross is that awareness of what’s killing us - what killed Christ - can save us.

We are daily Mass goers, so we know the scriptures better by hearing them over and over again.

How many times have we heard the gospels say, “The Scribes and the Pharisees were looking for ways to kill him.”

Spending their time plotting venting nasty innuendos against Jesus backfired - it always does - and killed the Holy Spirit within the Pharisees. They were able to get Jesus killed - but they killed true Judaism and true religion in their own hearts and minds.


Keep your eye on Jesus - and he’ll point out what gives life and what causes the death - especially of the Holy Spirit within us.
April 4, 2017


How and when, do rosaries
and necklaces, string and thread,
get tangled up? I don’t know.
Maybe it's when we are looking 
for something else in the top 
drawer - tangle happens.
Then again I don’t know why.

Our mind is a top drawer 
with all sorts of ideas 
and images, memories 
and moments - each next 
to or under each other, and
without looking tangle happens.
Then again I don’t know why.

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Monday, April 3, 2017



The title of my homily for this 5th Monday in Lent  is the psalm response for today’s Mass, “Even Though I Walk In the Dark Valley I Fear No Evil; For You Are At My Side.”


Today’s readings both have  the situation of a woman being accused of adultery and men want to kill them - stone them to death.

In the first reading from Daniel  it’s 2 Dirty old men who lust after Susanna and in the gospel it’s the woman caught in adultery - who  the Scribes and the Pharisees want to use her to kill her and Jesus as well.

The Psalm reading for today is Psalm  23 - which is very appropriate - because in both stories - each woman needs God to be at their side in such a horrible situation.

In the first reading it’s Daniel who saves Susanna. In the gospel it’s Jesus who saves this woman caught in adultery.


Everyone from time to time finds themselves in situations where others want to condemn us.

Till this day in India this same situation happens - because of male domination. Culture, custom control whom you can date and marry.

To this date in Islamic cultures where Sharia Law is imposed, sometimes women are stoned to death because of whom they date, want to marry, whom they fall in love with.

Back in the time of Puritan New England we had amongst the Puritans the same type of laws. We’ve all read or heard of Hawthorne’s book, The Scarlett Letter.

In our families there are stories about judgment for whom someone wants to marry.  He’s a Muslim. She’s of another color. He has tattoos and jewlerly.

He’s a mechanic or a maintenance man or a butcher or a baker or what have you.


In listening to people I have discovered some good news. It’s when people are worried when they become too judgmental.

To get the big picture, we need to say, “I don’t know why so and so is doing such and such a thing.”

There’s an interesting new book out, It Didn't Start With You: The Mystery of Inherited Trauma by Mark Wolynn.   It’s worth reading because of his thesis - that perhaps we are still influenced by what our great-grandparents have done.

He walks people back 3 or 4 generations.

The dark valley is a long dark valley.

I have to think about that. I did remember hearing, if you want to change someone, you have to start with your grandparents.

Maybe we picked up attitudes, religion, strictness, legalism, from our parents who picked it up  from their parents and they picked it up from their parents and on and on and on back.

Maybe we have to pause and realize God is at our side - walking with us - all through the generations.

Maybe once we sense God’s presence in our life - perhaps our God whom we think is fast asleep - we have to wake God up or let God shake us up and begin to influence us and others for the better.

Many of you worry about faith and grandkids.

Keep practicing your faith. Someone is picking it up.  Maybe today we are influencing 4 generations to come. Amen. 
April 3, 2017


Space - that place - empty -
where we place stuff - chairs -
words - sounds - that fill the
silence - the donut hole in
the gold links of a necklace
chain - just sitting there on a
naked neck - not noticed until
or unless silence becomes irksome -
and someone wants to run out into
the night and stare at the black
vastness of the universe and
scream, “God where are You?”

 © Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Sunday, April 2, 2017

PSALM  130


The title of my homily for today is, “Psalm 130.”

Today is one of the 2 times in the Sunday Mass liturgies we use Psalm 130 - so for that reason and a few others, I want to preach on it today.

Do you want some good prayers?  Try the Psalms.  There are 150 of them in the Bible. They are the Book of Psalms.  They are the song book of Israel in the Bible - but without the music. It’s been my experience that if you read the psalms you’ll find at least 7 that will grab you - because of their words and images. Every funeral we hear The Lord Is My Shepherd - Psalm 23.  Today I’m featuring Psalm 130.  Pray Psalm 130 all through life - especially in the last third of our life.

We have heard of it with its Latin title: “De Profundis.” “Out of the depths …. Out of the pits ….  Out of the bottom of my dirty bird cage - with old newspapers and you know what on its bottom, I cry to you oh God.”


Let me recite the prayer in full once again. It’s only 89 words in the translation from the Hebrew that we have here in our Missalette. Psalms sort of slide by us without much mention - especially by preachers.


Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD;
LORD, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to my voice in supplication. 

If you, O LORD, mark iniquities [sins],
LORD, who can stand?
But with you is forgiveness,
that you may be revered. 

I trust in the LORD;
my soul trusts in his word.
More than sentinels wait for the dawn,
let Israel wait for the LORD.

For with the LORD is kindness
and with him is plenteous redemption;
And he will redeem Israel
from all their iniquities.

There it is:  a profound prayer.

In some synagogues it’s recited every weekday. Shir HaMa’alot. Those are the first two words of the psalm in Hebrew - as “De profundis”  are the first two words in the Latin translation.

And De Profundis in Gregorian chant is powerful. Just type into Google, “De Profundis - YouTube” - and you can hear renditions by the greats:  Bach, Handel, Mendelssohn, Mozart and Salieri.  Leonard Bernstein has it in his Mass.


Did you notice the theme of death in today’s readings?

In the first reading from Ezekiel he has the Lord saying two times, “I will open your graves and have you rise from them.”

In the second reading from Romans, Paul says even if we are dead - if we have the Spirit of the One who raised Jesus from the dead in us - we will receive life in our mortal bodies through his Spirit dwelling in us.

And the gospel has the great story of Jesus calling Lazarus back from the dead - even though he was in the grave 4 days.

And then there is Psalm 130, “Out of the Depths,”  “De Profundis,”Shir HaMa’alot” - which I’m commenting on today.


First Psalm 130 is a scream. The psalms as prayer are often  cries - screeches - shrieks - shouts. The psalms teach us how to yell at God and to God. The psalms teach us how to scream.

In preaching I have said several times,  the loudest scream I ever heard in my life was from my sister Mary. It was at Lutheran hospital in Brooklyn - just outside of surgery. My mother was hit by a car while walking across a street on her way to church and then to work. It was a hit and run. She was flipped in the air and came down on her head. I got to the hospital and went upstairs to surgery. They were working on her brain. She died. It was April 7, 1987.   The doctors came out and told my sister Mary and me they couldn’t save her. The family was downstairs in the waiting room. I said to Mary, “Let’s suck it in and go downstairs and tell everyone.” She yelled, “Suck it in yourself!” And she screamed the loudest scream I ever heard.  It stopped everyone. So many of the psalms are screams.  When was the last time you screamed to God or at God?

And God hears screams from this planet every day - from Syria, Iraq, Baltimore, Chicago, North Korea, the Sudan and right now, Colombia. As of this morning the death today in Colombia is over 230 in those mud slides.

Next Psalm 130 is all about worrying about our mistakes, our sins, our iniquities. It gets us in touch with what every human being that I have ever talked to me as priest - what they worry about.  People have and hold onto memories of mistakes. And this psalm says, “Who can stand up if the Lord has a ledger, a book, a list on which God marks down when we were naughty.”  We don’t worry about when we were nice.

I already mentioned that Mozart and Salieri wrote music for Psalm 130 - De Profundis.  If you remember the movie Amadeus - about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri - I would dare say that Mozart didn’t feel the depths of Psalm 130 - especially dying at the age of 35 - and being a genius and a spoiled child all through is life. Salieri however, needed Psalm 130.  He dies at 74. In the movie and play, he’s looking back in his old age and talks about his life, his mediocrity, his jealousy, his envy - especially towards Mozart. He calls himself  the patron saint and the champion of mediocrity. He could pray Psalm 130 I’m sure with great depth. He cries near his death about his life, “Mediocrities everywhere... I absolve you... I absolve you... I absolve you... I absolve you... I absolve you all.”

Thirdly Psalm 130 says with the Lord there is forgiveness.  Couple that with the memories of our sins.  That’s a big act of faith. There is forgiveness with the Lord. Everyone over 65 worries about their life.  We drive alone at times with the hope that God is a forgiving God - who doesn’t have a score sheet.

Fourthly, there is the issue of trust - which goes along with remembering and forgiveness. Hopefully, we trust in that statement from the Lord that there is forgiveness. Trust is not only a child’s issue - the first stage of life according to Eric Ericson. It’s also the last stage in life - as we move into our second childhood.

Fifthly, we have to learn to wait for the Lord before we can experience this statement from the Lord.

We know about the experience of waiting. It’s like the military or police or people who work night shifts waiting  for the dawn.  We all experience waiting every day: waiting for that slow clock to get to 4 PM or whenever time is up. We wait for kids to get home. We wait up for spouses. We wait for kids or spouses to come back to the faith. So we know waiting.

Sixthly, the Lord is kind and he is filled with plenty of redemption. We Redemptorists have as our motto and meaning those words from this Psalm130. “With him there is fullness of redemption.” In Latin it’s “Copiosa apud eum redemptio.”  That’s our motto.  That’s our mission. We  preach trust in God. We preach “not to worry” when we look at our past. With the Lord there is fullness of redemption.”


Every one of us will die.

Every one of us hopes, Jesus is going to stand there at our grave or our remains and just as he stood at Lazarus grave - 4 days after he died, Jesus is going to scream out our name,  “______ come out!”