Saturday, April 29, 2017

April 29, 2017


Burdened by fate ???????
Are we?
Death, yes.
Parents, yes.
Body, yes.
Place and space, only for starters….
Then the changes….
Then the choices ….
Then the big decisions….
Why go through life as if
I'm following a map 
with tattooed x's and 0's
on the skin of my soul?
Burdened by fate???????
Are we?

 © Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Friday, April 28, 2017



The title of my homily is, “The Gamaliel Principle.”

It’s worth hearing this principle articulated every once and a while because it contains good wisdom.

The Gamaliel Principle is very simple: If God wants something, it’s going to happen – no matter how much anyone tries to stop it.

People say, “You can’t fight City Hall.” Wrong. You can fight City Hall – and at times people have won.

But if people say, “You can’t fight God!” they are right.

We heard in today’s first reading: the High Priest, the Sadducee's, the Sanhedrin, the Pharisees, and their councils, all wanted to wipe out the Apostles – that is, till Gamaliel stood up to speak.

Verse 34 of Acts 5 says, “But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, respected by all the people, stood up and ordered the men to be put outside for a short time. They he spoke to them.”

Gamaliel said: “Look, we’ve seen this kind of thing happen in the past and in the long run, we found out it didn’t work. These so called reformers fell and were destroyed. So time will tell. If this is not of God, it will disappear; if it’s of God, let’s not find ourselves fighting God.”

Great advice. If possible, don’t sweat craziness. Remember stupidity has it’s own reward. Remember greed is quicksand and it swallows up those who jump into its hole.

Then there are Church scandals. Relax, the Church rights itself – in time.

We’ve all heard the story about Napoleon saying to Cardinal Consalvi, “I am going to destroy the church!” and Consalvi said, “Best of luck. We clergy have been trying to do it for centuries and we still haven’t succeeded.”

I love the story I heard a few times about the old lady from Jersey City who said, “The 5 marks of the Church are: it’s one, holy, Catholic, Apostolic, and it survives its clergy.”

In the meanwhile, if possible, wait. Eventually ….

This doesn’t mean we sweep stuff under the rug. This doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be whistle blowing – and there will always be letter writing. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have councils to reform the church. We need ongoing conversion – but what do you do, when nothing is changing?

I found two new stories or examples last night while preparing this sermon– stories  I never heard before.  

The first one has to do with Francis of Assisi. In the 1200’s times were not too moral for the church and it’s clergy – so one of Francis of Assisi’s brothers asked him, "Brother Francis," he said, "What would you do if you knew that the priest celebrating Mass had three concubines on the side?" Francis, without missing a beat, said slowly, "When it came time for Holy Communion, I would go to receive the sacred Body of my Lord from the priest's anointed hands."

The second story or example comes from traditions about St. Francis deSales. It has much more substance and you can vehemently disagree with this.

“Once, St. Francis deSales was asked to address the situation of the scandal caused by some of his brother priests during the 1500s and 1600s.

He said, "Those who commit these types of scandals are guilty of the spiritual equivalent of murder," destroying other people's faith in God by their terrible example. But then he warned his listeners, "But I'm here among you to prevent something far worse for you. While those who give scandal are guilty of the spiritual equivalent of murder, those who take scandal - who allow scandals to destroy their faith - are guilty of spiritual suicide."

We all know people drop out of church because of scandals. St. Francis deSales is saying, “It’s spiritual suicide.”

Not easy. But Jesus said, “I am with you all days, even to the end of the world.”

So don’t go crazy. Trust in God. Now, of course, there is a catch. It’s patience. It’s frustration. It’s the slowness.

The catch is the “in the meanwhile, the poor get poorer and people go bananas with sinfulness, etc.

Relax: sin and selfishness and stupidity – all have their own reward.

Relax: those who play with fire, get burnt.

Remember there is always the reckoning. There is a wash day. There is a judgment day.

Stink stinks.

Sin eventually rises to the surface and sin floats.

Time tells all things.`

Trust the process, if you live a good life, goodness will prevail.

God sees the big picture – we go crazy at little stuff like who’s going to communion and who’s winning and who is getting all the credit. The universe is estimated to be 5 to 15 billion years ago – and now with the Hubble Telescope, one number is 14 billion and another figure is 11.2 billion.

And we humans haven’t been around that long yet  - just becoming a little more conscious in the last 4000 years.


So the Gamaliel principle: Wait and see! God does what God does in the way God does  what’s what. 
APRIL 28, 2017


Undoing…. Now, at times, that would
be a skill we would all love to have.

Undoing a comment that goes sour -
unraveling - after it comes out of our mouth.

Undoing a marriage that fell apart - because
we both reneged and neglected promises.

Undoing creation - Adam and Eve sinned, yes,
and God had regrets creating us - Genesis 6:6.

Undoing our doings - thinking we can do that -
as if they never happened - when they did.

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Thursday, April 27, 2017



 The title of my homily is: “Starting Over and Over Again.”

I’d like to reflect a little bit on the basic theme of conversion – or starting over and over again.

Today’s gospel continues the story of Nicodemus from the 3rd chapter of John. The obvious theme that keeps hitting me is the one we’ve been hearing: being reborn, starting over and over again.  

But the nuance I’d like to stress is not one conversion or two conversions, but one’s whole life as a series of many conversions, so called on-going conversions.


When I was a teenager in the 1950's  there was a book and later a TV series, staring Richard Carlson, years ago, that was called, “I Led Three Lives.”

I only remember that he was a spy as well as a counter-spy – with the name, “Herbert Philbrick.”

That title, “I Led Three Lives” hit me as I reflected on this theme of conversion and starting all over again and again. We live and lead many lives.

Conversion is moving towards the best life we can life – to move towards what the Marine advertisement says, “To Be all we can be.”


Then there was the book and later the movie, The Natural. It had a scene that fits right in here loud and clear.

Glenn Close, plays the part of Iris Gaines. She is standing by the bedside of Roy Hobbs, played by Robert Redford. He just told her how much he messed up his life. On the way to spring training to join the team that signed him, he met this mysterious woman in black. He saw her once. Once. 

That obviously changed the path of his life. 

He had a very promising baseball career and he is shot by her. Glenn Close is standing there listening to him tell this story  in a hospital room. And she says, “I think we have two lives.  The one we live and learn from and the one we then do the rest of our life with after the learning.

Hopefully, we live and we learn and then live.


But looking at my life, thinking about issues which I need to change, and grow from, eating patterns, sleeping patterns, work habits, prayer habits, etc. I see that there are many conversions, many ups and downs in life.


Here is a poem - called "Nicodemus" - which I wrote way back for a book of night prayers. 


(John 3:1-21)

This time
in the wind,
in the night,
I stand at the door, Lord,
and knock once again.

I come,
empty and afraid,
asking, seeking, knocking,
hoping you will open up
your door to see me once again.

I enter
with fears and doubts,
questioning whether
it’s really worth it
to start my life all over once again.

I’ve been
reborn too many times.
There have been too many conversions.
Why should I rise this time
knowing that I’ll probably fall once again.

And yet, Lord,
after each fall
this urge to come back to you,
the way, the truth and the life,
stirs in me once again, like the Wind.


One conversion can often be great.

There is the honeymoon and the infatuation period. Then there is the struggle and often disillusionment period that follows.

And then if we fall again, that second conversion, doesn’t have the bells and the whistles, and bragging rights, that the first conversion had.

I would think there is a vast difference between a second marriage or a third marriage - compared to a first marriage.


Today’s gospel talks about the wrath of God and I often feel antsy when I mention that while reading the gospel.

One writer, speaking of the text says what’s going on here is projection of our inner feelings onto God. The text has a anthropomorphic sense. God is not a God of wrath - but we are.

One person described the after-effects of sin as,  “The recoil of sin upon the sinner.”

When we sin, we get angry at ourselves, not God.

When we sin, we damage ourselves at times over relationships with each other.

So the recoil in on self, the wrath is on the self.


 Rather the Lord is generous.

Today’s gospel talks about God  not being cheap.

He does not ration out his spirit.

He pours out new life on us. So go to God and ask, seek, knock.


I found a good example of the surprise side of God’s love. It’s about the copious redemption of God. All we need to do is cry out of our depths for his overflowing, over abundant redemption.

Here’s the example, “Two hundred miles northeast of Los Angeles is a baked-out gorge called Death Valley – the lowest place in the United States, dropping 276 feet below sea level. It is also the hottest place in the country, with an official recording of 134 degrees. Streams flow into Death Valley only to disappear, and a scant two and a half inches of rain falls on the barren wasteland each year.

“But, some time ago, an amazing thing happened. For nineteen straight days rain feel onto that lone dry earth. Suddenly all kinds of seeds, dormant for years, burst into bloom. In a valley of death, there was life.” p. 61 in ed. Floyd Thatcher, The Miracle of Easter, p. 61, Word Books, Waco TX.


Now, we might ask, well why doesn’t God pour down water on that desert all the time?

I don’t know.

But I’d rather see the story as an example that I can bloom, I can blossom, over and over again.

I can call on the Lord and be saved.

If we are really honest, God is calling us to conversion, to blossom all the time, Death valley doesn’t I can.


I love the question
that Mary Oliver asks
in her poem, The Summer Day,
"Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?"

I suspect every person
and every poet asks
that question.

I suspect that's why 
commencement address speakers 
either uses Mary Oliver's question
or ask it in their own words.

Our family poem is 
The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost. 

We all have many roads ahead of us - 
and many times we come to a fork
in the road: 
"And I - I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."

So  whether its doctor, lawyer,
maintenance or mechanic,
priest or prophet, nun or nurse,
mom, dad, advocate or actor,
"Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?"

Listen to what a man with the name
of Adolfo Kaminsky did with his life.

© Andy Costello  - Thoughts for Today

The Forger - Video -
Oct 2, 2016
As a teenager, Adolfo Kaminsky saved thousands of lives byforging passports to help children flee the Nazis ...
April 27, 2017


Time ticks steadily, uniformly,
exactly, tick, tick, tick, tick ….

But life is not time - as much as
it's moments - meetings and nexts ….

Big bangs, little bangs, people at
our front door knocking - wanting ….

And surprise we’re 77 and we have so 
much to sort out about what happened ….

Life …. Oh, Lordy Lord, it’s then we realize 
how well we lived our time or didn’t….

Time…. It’s then we want so
much more time. Tick, tick, tick….

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

April 26, 2017


There are tables and there are tables. 
Then there is a favorite: it’s the one
we did our homework on when we got
home from school - plus played checkers
and Monopoly on - as well as being the
perfect place for doing jigsaw puzzles.
It was perfect as a catch all table for kids
coats. Why would anyone want to hang
up hoodies and down zipper kids' coats?
Tossed on top of each other is how
one places kids' coats and stuff.
It was perfect for cards - and it’s been in
the family for 63 years now. It has never
needed glue or tightening. It holds
memories and elbows, laughter and
babies. It’s a marriage for better for worse
and it’s never been worse. This kind
of table can’t be bought. It happened.

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Tuesday, April 25, 2017


Sometimes a moment, an experience,
a conversation on a back porch - on a
hot summer evening - with a few neighbors -
is like a popsicle - or a creamsicle -
orange and white - and we lick it.
We suck on it - making delicious sounds -
even the stick that held it in place.
We lick that too. We’re all smiling.
We’re children  again. We’re in communion
with the world - not our work - not
performance - just sucking sweet delight
from a popsicle or a creamsicle  - and we
sense God is in on our time together as well.
Holy communion doesn’t just happen in church.

 © Andy Costello, Reflections  2017


[Since today is the feast of St. Mark, I asked him to make some comments at our Mass this morning.]

My name is Mark. I’m here to say one thing today: “Read my Gospel! Read my Good News about Jesus Christ.”

If you bring up a Bible after Mass today, I’ll even sign your Bible - on the last page of my Gospel. I’d prefer to put my mark there - my name there - instead of up front.

I don’t consider myself a great writer. In fact, I wanted in my gospel to simply report  the doings of Jesus more than the sayings of Jesus. 

That doesn’t mean I don’t give some of Jesus’ teachings about how to live as if you’re in the Kingdom of God - some parables, some other sayings of Jesus. But I mainly want to tell you about the healing miracles Jesus did to make life better for those who were sick and blind and paralyzed.

I did my homework. I   walked with Paul for a while and heard and read some of his messages about Jesus in his letters.  I also listened to Peter and heard about his experiences of knowing Jesus.

But I was no slave to either Peter and Paul.  I listened to other sources.  I simply tried to line up the life of Jesus for anyone who wanted to know what he was like and what he was about.

Jesus was a carpenter from the north - up there near the Lake of Galilee. He didn’t start preaching till he heard about John the Baptist’s call to our nation to repent - to change - to return to our Jewish roots - to go down to the Jordan River - to go into those waters and come up the other side like our ancestors did when they came into this land.  The front part of my gospel is about Jesus  going about doing good.    Then as I head into the bottom quarter of my gospel  - I tell about his trip down south to Jerusalem to face his destiny and to face the leaders of his people who needed a wakeup call.

Jesus was simply a carpenter who became a preacher.

He did that when he was around 30 and like any prophet and teacher and preacher he expected death for standing up to what God wants of him.

He didn’t like the way his fellow Jews were practicing their religion. It was too strict - too tough - too legalistic. They were like a fig tree - but one that didn’t produce any fruit.

It didn’t reflect the Kingdom - the way he saw  God wanting us to do life.

He taught us that the message is this - that the law is simple: love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. That’s the first and greatest commandment and the second is: you must love your neighbor as yourself.

He called disciples by name to follow him. Some did. Some didn’t - walking away empty.

Early on he understood bread - people’s hunger for bread. Later on he saw people’s hunger for the bread of life - and he became that life in that bread - but he didn’t tell and do that till near the end of his life.

After preaching and healing in the North, he walked South. It was then that all hell broke loss. He told his disciples this secret - that this was going to happen - that the cross - suffering - and death - is on his horizon

When we got to Jerusalem the Pharisees made their move to destroy him.

Judas one of the key disciples sold Jesus out. He betrayed Jesus. Money, disappointment in Jesus’ mission, thinking it was more here than hereafter,

Jesus was arrested in the night.

First he had his Last Supper with his disciples. It was at the Passover Meal. He took bread. He took wine. He said, “This is my body. This is my blood. This is the Kingdom coming.”

Then he went out into the night - prayed in a garden - where he was arrested.

His disciples panicked. They fled Jesus. They deserted him. Peter denied that he even knew Jesus.

Now he was all alone  before the Sanhedrin and the Roman authorities. He was mocked, spat at, ridiculed, crowned with thorns.

The next day - when put on trial - the crowd screamed, “Crucify hm. Crucify him.”

And that’s what they did, executing him on a cross

It must have been horrible - yet he went through his passion - till the end.

He screamed out from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you deserted me?”

But his death wasn’t the end.

On the early morning after the Sabbath of that death week - a new day arose - and his disciples discovered that he rose from the dead - and appeared to Mary of Magdala and several of his disciples

Jesus closed by telling us to start like he did - be baptized - and then go into the whole world and proclaim his good news - his gospel to all.

This then is what I’m doing.

I found out later that my gospel was the first and shortest - so start with me. Then read Matthew. He was more organized. Then Luke who told the best parables. Lastly John who was more poetic.

Thank you. 
April 25, 2017


Monday, April 24, 2017



The title of my homily is, “How Many Times Have You Been Reborn?”

That’s a question that hit me when I read today’s gospel from John 3:1-8.

We’ve all heard the word, “reborn” or “born again” and when it shows up in Christian conversations,   it’s from the gospel of John.

Nicodemus is told by Jesus that he has to be born again from above - otherwise he cannot see the Kingdom of God.


Most mornings I usually glance through the New York Times which we get - to see what’s happening around the world.

This morning I noticed on page 3 for today, Monday, April 24, 2017,  the following:  

“To Stay Married, Embrace Change
In her Modern Love column, Ada Calhoun urges readers not to get caught up in the ‘end of history’ illusion - the belief that a spouse’s personality and habits solidify at the moment of marriage.  Partners are people, and people change, she argues, a perspective that the married members of the audiences applauded.

I then tracked down the column from last Friday, April 21st, where that comment was made. It was very interesting, scary, challenging, and thought provoking.  And not only was there an article to read, but there were 281 comments as well.”

People who were married 50, 47, 37, 6, 16 years wrote in their comments.

People who were divorced wrote in comments.

Putting both together,  I ask the question I started with, “How Many Times Have You Been Reborn.”

I was ordained a priest with 15 other guys. 9 left the priesthood. 2 came back - one to the Redemptorists and one became a diocesan priest.

I know of one who was married and divorced and remarried.

I don’t know if they would use the language of being reborn or what have you.


I see a homily - especially on a weekday - having one key thought - or one key question.

I don’t see any of us able to answer the question, if a question is presented, during the Mass or at the moment. However, I would think that it’s a good homily if something hits a person there and then and they continue processing what hit them well after the Mass is over.

For example, I preached 3 times yesterday - on the question of forgiveness - especially a person dealing with life mistakes - or sins - or hurts - in the upper room of one’s mind - more than in the confession box in a church.

After the 5:30 a man - never noticed him before - came up to me in the crowd of people leaving Mass - and said to me something like, “You said something that I have been wrestling with all my life - and I never thought about it - the way you talked about it this evening.”

Then someone else jumped in - and then another - and then another - and then we went out to dinner at Macaroni Grill - and at 10:30 last night - while watching a baseball game - I was sitting there - thinking about what that man - whoever he was  -  what he said. And I thought and prayed - I hope I see him again. I hope he was challenged and is processing what hit him or what have you.

Did what I said,  help him?

Will it lead to a life change?

I don’t know.


But each of us can go inside our  upper room - out mind. That’s the metaphor and the reality in yesterday’s gospel. We can walk around inside our head and look at our  life.

Change. Rebirth. A new me….

We can divorce other people.  Can we divorce ourselves?

Am I the same me that I was at 7 years old?

Do we ever harden like cement?

Do we change?

Do people change dramatically or do people change slowly - like the paint on the walls of our homes?

Who judges?

A family member - who hadn’t seen me in a long time once said, “You’ve changed!”

There were dozens of meetings at that occasion - a wedding, a funeral, or a family get together, I’m not sure what the occasion was, but that was the only conversation or comment from that day that I remembered.

Dumb me - didn’t ask - and I still haven’t asked what this family member meant.

As priest she had a chance to see me up front - on stage - so I wondered if that triggered her comment.

I don’t know.

I assume that we are the best person to make the judgment - but with help from others.

I also assume that geographical changes can bring about changes in us.

What else? 

How about deaths, divorces, loss of jobs, retirements….

I remember hearing in a talk about the essential self, the nuclear self, the central self, that changes less than other self-stuff.

I am still wondering about that.

I know that I know more now that I knew 10, 20, 30 years ago.

I know that I don’t want to become cold and crusty - and be a selfie - that can be selfish and self-centered.

I know,  I want to be better not worse.

I know, I need to read, study, be self-reflective.

I know,  I have to shut up, take long walks, drive with the car radio off - and dig into stuff I need to dig into more.


The title of my homily was, “How Many Times Have I Been Reborn?”

For some reason I have always liked the number 5 - I have 5 fingers and 5 ties - so that’s a manageable number. So I’m going to work on coming up with 5 rebirths.

Your turn - your take - on this topic and theme and question.