Saturday, June 10, 2017

June 10, 2017


Some days - everything cooperates.
Red roofs, grey rock, white walls,
green leaves, blue skies and blue
waters - are all in sync together.

Some days - everything cooperates.
Tomorrow? No, I don’t want to go there.
Yesterday? No, I don’t want to go there.
Today? I  just want to do today, Lord.

Some days - everything cooperates.
What’s wrong or right with this picture?
Ooops! There are no people in it.
Nope. I don’t want to go there either.


© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017
Picture; Dubrovnik, Croatia

Friday, June 9, 2017



The title of my homily for this 9th Friday in Ordinary time is, “Healing Techniques.”

Today’s first reading, from the Book of Tobit, has a very unique healing technique or method.

Tobiah’s father is blind because of bird droppings. Raphael, the angel, offers to rub the fish gall into Tobit’s blindness. His cataracts shrink and peel off from his eyes. And he is healed. He is able to see the light of day.

I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a weird, strange and different medical or healing technique.

And if you have been coming to Mass every day this week and you’ve been listening to the First Reading - you have heard some strange readings from the Book of Tobit.

This reading for today is one more example of a strange reading.


All of us have need of healing from time to time - inwardly and outwardly - of physical, spiritual and psychological hurts.

Live long enough and we experience various wounds and hurts.

What have been your health issues, questions, problems, or what have you?

Have you ever been seriously wounded?

The Bible talks about the incurable wound.

Don’t get one of those.


Medical researchers step back at times and look at how other cultures, places and times deal with specific medical problems.

The Bible is one great archaeological site for research into how people try to get healing. It talks about healing techniques from long ago.

The one in today’s first reading - the use of gall for healing - has often intrigued different folks.  Surprise. Look it up. People around the world still  use gall and bile for healing.  Doctors up till the 1800’s used fish gall for the healing of eyes.  One interesting component is that there is a bit of pain involved in the process.

Come to think about it, every once and a while we read about researchers using stuff from fish and sea life for healing. We also read about the use of plants and herbs and roots and seeds for healing.

We can fish through the Bible and get stories about healing processes from way, way back.

How about the use of leeches, marijuana, fish oil, and mold (from which Louis Pasteur came up with penicillin).

How about alcohol?

How about Jesus using spit or saliva in healing someone. That might draw an “Oooooh!” - but come to think about it, when we cut our finger, we often immediately put spit on the cut.


And if we look at healing practises from around the world - but especially from the Bible - we see people praying. We see the question of faith being brought into the desire for healing.

We also know that some religions won’t allow for the use of medicines.  They want to rely only on faith.

I love the saying, “Pray for potatoes, but pick up a shovel.”

I would stress, “If sick, pray for healing, but find a good doctor.”

We pray for doctors and nurses - but we also still anoint people with oil - something that medicine men and women have used down through the centuries.


Let me conclude with a short question and a short comment.

The question is the doctor’s question: "Where does it hurt?"

It’s important to get a good diagnosis - before we choose a prognosis.

The second step is the Kojac comment: “Talk to me!”

Pain and hurt can sometimes get us to talk to one another.

In fact, people often joke about old age being an organ recital.

It’s good to talk to others about who the best doctor is - or about some of the problems of aging.  It’s also good to practice some silence  -if all we do is talk about our health. 
June  9,  2017


We don’t like it when another
thinks they know what’s on
the other side the wall.

We hate it when another
thinks they know why we did
what we did.

We inwardly scream when another
puts down our autobiography
and they are only on page 23.

We love it when Christ
comes through our walls
and says, “Peace be with you.”

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Thursday, June 8, 2017

June 8, 2017


Drums and the base viola, horns,
saxophones and piano,  give off
vibrations - vibes that hum through
our walls - vibes that slide into our
bones a bit - including our skull -
proving there is such a thing as
karma…. music, sound, dance. Don’t
you know - every floor is a dance floor?
Slide, glide, ride with the flow.
Don't you know: different people 
give off different vibes? When they 
walk into a room, Notice and watch them. 
Pray for them. Pray for yourself. 
Pray: “Lord, make me an instrument
of your peace …." Yes, but pray for a 
lot more. Pray: "Lord, let me bring joy, laughter, communion, creativity, 
bread, wine, work, space, place, a vote."
We’re all moving on this spinning planet.
We’re all in this music and dance together.

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

June 7, 2017


Our eyes, binoculars,
can focus on all that is around,
all that surrounds us:
people, scenery, the game.

Our eyes, binoculars,
twist, turn, adjust, trying to read
the signs and signals, the
meanings on faces and other’s eyes.

But our eyes want to know
more than what we see.
We want to know the I
behind another’s eyes.

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Tuesday, June 6, 2017



The title of my homily for this 9th Tuesday in Ordinary Time is, “Integrity.”

I was tempted to preach on the moment Tobit,  in today’s first reading loses his eye sight because of the bird who was simply doing his duty. [Cf. Tobit 2:9-14]

Better not, not to sure just what to say - but you have to admit it’s a great story…. 

So I decided to talk about integrity. I wasn’t sure just what word to use, but I hope integrity works.


It fits in with what’s going on in both readings for today.

In today’s first reading Tobit accuses his wife Anna of being dishonest. He accuses her of stealing a goat. He gets her goat. She tells him that the goat is a bonus from the people she works making cloths for. She’s a weaver.

He doesn’t believe her and gets very angry. So she shoots back at him, “Where are you charitable deeds now? Where are your virtuous acts? See! Your true character is finally showing itself!”

Sounds like a husband and wife spat - that I sometimes hear about.

Thinking about that I said, “Integrity has honesty as part of it - but it’s more - a lot more. It includes love and kindness and  how we speak to each other. It includes not judging others - besides being honest and virtuous.

And in today’s gospel Jesus goes after the Pharisees for being hypocrites. They are after Jesus and are flipping a coin at him to try to trap him. They are not really interested in paying taxes as much as trying to catch Jesus.


In this short, short homily I want to reflect on integrity - and figure out what it means. I have never heard anyone described as being a person of integrity in a eulogy after they died - but wouldn’t it  be nice if we got that description?

It means that we won’t or don’t compromise - on our values or ethics.

It means we face the music if we make a mistake. In fact someone said just that: “There is no better test for our ultimate integrity than our behavior when we are  wrong.”

It means we don’t lie.

It means we are transparent.

If means what you see is what you get.

It means we’re consistent.

It means we don’t have a price.


The word “integrity” is not used in English translations of the 4 gospels.  However the theme seems to be there.   

I would think the gospel writers when talking about Judas, they are talking about someone without integrity. I would think that Jesus is described over and over again as a person of integrity. 

Who else? Other than Jesus the person whom I thought would be a person of integrity, would be Thomas. He said he wouldn’t believe till he put his hand into Jesus’ side. Then he would know it’s Jesus and he’s alive again - risen from the dead.



While meandering through the moments of today, think about what integrity means to you. Amen.

June 6, 2017


I’m no dummy.
I'm no puppet. 
There is no ventriloquist
holding me in his lap.
This is me.
This is my voice.
I’m speaking my thoughts.
It’s not karaoke or lip sync.
It has taken me a lot of experiences,
a lot of questions, a lot of listening,
some hurts, some helps,
some praying, some reading,
not enough, a lot of not yets,
lots of mistakes and wrong moves,
but I have figured out what I have
figured out so far and I hope there
are a lot more learnings to come. Amen.

 © Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Monday, June 5, 2017



The title of my homily for this 9th Monday in Ordinary Time is, The Book of Tobit: More Bible Stuff.”

Today’s first reading is from the Book of Tobit.  This week we have 6 readings from the Book of Tobit. That’s it. And we only get Tobit every other year for our First Reading.  However, I’ve noticed that couples often use Tobit 8: 4b-8 - which has 3 key marriage themes at their wedding. They don’t use “The Tale of the Monster in the Bridal Chamber” - which Tobit uses in Chapter 6: 10-18 - when we hear that Sarah was given in marriage 7 times - and each time the new bridegroom goes into the bridal room, he dies that same night. Scary stuff. Weird horror story.

Whenever we have for the first reading something from the beginning of a new book of the Bible, I like to do a little research - any maybe say something about that book - as sort of a homily.

Hey they are using the book for a reading, so we ought to say something about it. 

So let me mention 5 disconnected things about the Bible - using Tobit as a jumping off point.


The Book of Tobit is not in the Jewish Bible. It’s in the Septuagint. That’s the Greek Old Testament. That’s the version that Jerome mainly used for his Latin translation of the Bible - called the Vulgate.

The Protestant translation of the Bible came from the Jewish or Masoretic text, so that’s why you won’t find the book of Tobit in the King James Version of the Bible. Check it out.


It’s 14 chapters long - that is the version we have in our Bible. You can read it in a day.

St. Jerome didn’t think it should be in the Bible - that is, that it should not be considered canonical. However, as a favor for his friends, Jerome translated the Book of Tobit from Aramaic into Latin in a day - with the help of an Aramaic translator.

So it’s not that long - and there was an Aramaic copy of Tobit around.


Last year I read a book on a Genizah in Cairo, Egypt.  

A genizah is a special room in a synagogue where folks dump anything written in Hebrew. There was some law you couldn’t burn or just throw anything Hebrew away.

In our churches there is the sacristy, the sanctuary, the narthex or lobby, so in some Jewish synagogues there is a room for Hebrew writings.

I have noticed as priest that sometimes people dump old prayer books in the rectory side rooms - along with rosaries, scapulars and broken statues. Someone has died. They had prayer books and religious stuff. You can’t just dump them in the garbage.

So a genizah is the place religious stuff. 

And way back in the 1890’s different folks began discovering that the Cairo genizah had some valuable old writings - some of which - specialists had said disappeared from the face of the earth.

Besides the book I read about the Cairo genizah, I noticed another book entitled, Sacred Trash: The Lost and Found World of the Cairo Geniza by Adina Hoffman and Peter Cole.

Since the discoveries, they have found fragments of Tobit in the mix and the mess of over 300, 000, Hebrew manuscripts.
They have a computerized inventory of over 301,000 fragments from that room in the Ben Ezra Synagogue in Old Cairo.

For the Book of Tobit they have three 13th Century fragments.

They don’t know for sure whether this book of Tobit was originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek.


As you know some Arab shepherds - young kids - discovered in a cave near the Dead Sea a library of ancient scrolls.  It’s was 1947. 

These scrolls jumped the oldest biblical scrolls a good thousand years plus. I checked it out this morning in preparing these comments. Yes they found fragments of the Book of Tobit in the midst of the Dead Sea Scrolls.


I also learned something new this morning - that I had not heard before. Since the 1980’s - in the Archives of Perugia in Italy - they discovered ancient documents were used to reinforce bindings of ancient books - which were newer than the documents they were reinforcing.

For example, they found 8 fragments that contain parts of the Babylonian Talmud.  They are part of a copy of the Jewish Talmud - copied in Spain in the 13th century - then brought to central Italy. It was used as a sacred text and then removed and reused to bind other books. They are very important because they only had at the time one copy in the world of the complete manuscript of that  Hebrew Talmud. It’s in Munich and was copied in the 15th century - with some other incomplete manuscripts. The reason for the shortage of that Babylonian Talmud was that they were  confiscated and burnt by the Catholic Church and the Inquisition.

That work is only in its infancy and I don’t know if they have any parts of Biblical texts like the Book of Tobit.


It’s 2017 and the sun is going to last a few more billion years - so we are going to be around a long, long time, so who knows what else will be discovered and figured out in our world. So there is a lot more research to do - on books like the Book of Tobit, etc.
June 5, 2017

Make Luke 9: 46-48 Great Again

Make Us Humble Again, O Lord.

Make the World Better, O Lord.

Make Us Make Our World Better, O Lord.

Make America Last by Being the Servant of All, Lord. Mark 20:41-45

Make Us Care About the Earth and Each Other, O Lord.

Make Us Peace Makers, O Lord.

Make Us Good Stewards of Creation, O Lord.

Make Us United, O Lord.

Make Us Listen to Each Other, O Lord.

Make Us Make Our Planet Better, O Lord.

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

My Thoughts:

For the sake of transparency I am a Democrat - yet for the sake of  trying to  keep my blog objective - I have avoided political comments - 99 % of the time. For the sake of clarifying my thoughts in my blog piece above, I add that I am also a Catholic. I find much of current political rhetoric contrary to the Catholic Social Justice teachings that I was brought up with.  Hence this blog piece. Our Pope Francis certainly expresses his theology about many current comments being made - and they are certainly what the Catholic Popes and Bishops, teachers and theologians, have proclaimed down through the past few centuries. Enough for now ....

Next Comment:

I received two comments to my comment above.  I rarely get any comments.

The first was an "Amen" and the second was from Anonymous. This second comment states what Democrats hold. My reaction was to not put in the second comment, but for the sake of further thinking, I added it. I disagree with whoever Anonymous is - because she or he can't tell what all democrats hold or believe - anymore than I can.  I just know what I as a democrat hold.

Sunday, June 4, 2017



The title of my homily for this feast of Pentecost is, “Coming Home: The Importance of Place.”

If you ever have the money, the time and the opportunity, to get to Jerusalem, go.

And if you go to Jerusalem, as Christian, as Catholic, you’ll probably visit a site, a holy place,  called, “The Cenacle.”

I went to Israel once, January 2000, as a suitcase carrier.

One of our older priests, Leo Dunn, whom I had been stationed with in our retreat house in Tobyhanna, Pennsylvania, in the 1970’s,  was asked by our provincial, “Leo, you never get out, you never take trips, you never go on vacation, why don’t you take a trip to some place you’d love to go to?”

And he said, “No!”

And the provincial said, “Why not? Leo you love the scriptures, the Bible, wouldn’t you love to go to Israel?”

And he hesitated and then said, “I’d love to, but I’m too old for that now.”

So George, the Provincial said, “I’ll get Andy to carry your bags.”

After several more “no’s” and a lot more pushing, I got a phone call and ended up being Leo’s suitcase carrier to Israel for two weeks. Nice.

We first saw the north: Galilee, Nazareth, Capernaum, Cana, the Mount of the Transfiguration - where we had a spaghetti dinner - and many other places. We then traveled south - also by bus - to the Dead Sea, Jericho, Bethlehem, Bethany and Jerusalem.

If you ever get to Israel, you picture these places every time you hear them mentioned in the Bible readings for the rest of your life. Neat.

In Jerusalem you’ll go to the Garden of Olives, the Wailing Wall, the possible place of the crucifixion and the Cenacle - or Upper Room.

It’s 2017. A lot of things have happened in Israel in the past two thousand years. Jerusalem has been destroyed a few times. Buildings have been leveled  - and different places are claimed to be the places for this and that.

Our tour guide, a Franciscan priest, Stephen Doyle told us history, possibilities, and legends of each place.



I think of the Cenacle, the room of the Last Supper, the place of waiting for what’s next, after Jesus was killed, the place where the disciples were hiding behind locked doors,  the place of the coming of the Holy Spirit, whenever I hear today’s  first reading and today’s gospel.

 As I stood there I thought of what took place in the Upper Room, the Cenacle.  Father Stephen Doyle read out loud today’s first reading and possibly today’s gospel.


The title of my homily is, “Coming Home: The Importance of Place.”

We all have our places.

Father John Harrison grew up just down the road from here.  I’m sure when he drove home to St. Mary’s - after saying Mass here at St. John Neumann’s,  different things hit him - than hit any of us who are from somewhere else.

Last weekend I was up in Danvers, Massachusetts for a family wedding. I had never been there before - but I was with lots of family members whom I had not seen in a while. Neat.

I was feeling down a bit - because the wedding had no Catholic stuff in it - and being priest, of course that hit me. But it was good to be there to be with family. Life has it’s pluses and misuses - half full and half empty moments.

I wore my black suit and priest black shirt and collar and did a reading - but that was the only mention of God. At the meal, it didn’t look like they were going to say a public prayer before the meal, so I sort of pushed my way into doing that.

Many parents and grandparents speak to priests about their feelings at a time like that. Other than that, it was a good wedding in a beautiful place - and it was great to see another member of the family  marrying into another family. And it was a nice moment in a sacred place - a field with a nice big pond to our right - down a hill.

Gary, the husband of my niece Mary, told me that the day before, since they were in Massachusetts for the wedding, they took a side trip to the place where they had their first apartment after they got married. He told me that they always went there whenever they were in that area and their two sons made fun of their parents for doing this. Boring…. Boring…. Boring…. Just stopping a car on a strange street - getting out and walking around. This time they saw a “For Sale” sign and they were without their sons and they were able to get into a similar apartment to one they had lived in years ago. Neat.

The title of my homily is, “Coming Home: The Importance of Place.”

Both their sons will someday know the importance of coming home to their first home in Pennsylvania and their first homes - now that they are married - Brian in Austin, Texas and Sean in Jacksonville, Florida.


Where we went to school…. where we got engaged …. where we went on our honeymoon …. where we were blessed …. where we were cursed ….

This week for homework: If you doodle on your computer or if you use pad and pen - write out the top ten places on the planet that are important to you - that are sacred to you.

Where are the places that formed and informed you - where you became who you have become: jobs, homes, parks, playing fields, stage….
Are there any places that are no longer there?

The street I grew up on - is still there - 62nd Street, between 3rd and 4th Avenue, Brooklyn, N. Y. is still there, but our home - 326 -  was torn down to make way for an extension of the Gowanus Parkway - coming off the Verrazano Bridge. Bummer….

But that house is still in my memory and still in my mind - and it’s still in our black and white pictures.

Sort out your pictures and in good time, show your grandkids where you come from - the importance of place - or take them there - and let them see it - even if it is boring, boring, boring to them - but it brings tears to you - and in time - hopefully, they will learn the importance of place.


Just as Israel contains Jerusalem and various shrines of our Christian roots, so too each person has in their mind and memory, churches - places where they were baptized, made first communion, confirmation, were married - and celebrated funerals.

Church places are important…. Today’s a good day to think about all this.

I was up in New Jersey last week for a common retreat for about 60 Redemptorists - at our retreat house. I was stationed there for 7 years of my life. 

Two times - during the retreat - I went into the chapel - when I could be all alone - and I    sat in different places and remembered talking with someone down the corridor in a counseling room  - about a family problem or a marriage problem and I said, “Let’s go down to the chapel and say a prayer over this.”  And I had my favorite places of prayer.

I remembered another retreat house where I spent another 7 years of a my life and I remember a former pro football player whose name is well known. He  came up to me once and said, “I guess you wonder why I only sit in the back seat - over in the ride hand - side aisle corner?” 

I remained silent - and nodded my head. I never had problems where people sit in church - because I have heard some wonderful stories why people sit where they sit in church - including urinary problems - and the need to shoot out to the bathroom. I remember one lady said she always sits under the 4th station - because she wants Mary the Mother of Jesus to be with her in the ways of the cross in her life.

Speaking of urinary problems, I remember once going back to our childhood church - OLPH - in Brooklyn - and I noticed men on one side of the confession boxes and women on the other side. I didn’t remember that, but then I remembered as a little boy, I thought they were bathrooms.

Well, in a way, they are….. Smile.

Well this former pro football player said he sits where he sits - because that’s where his mother sat in their local church for over 20 years - praying for him to come back to the faith.

And he said, “I finally did, thanks to my mother’s prayers.”


This place here - St. Mary’s Church downtown Annapolis - the churches of your life - especially your childhood - the places of the stories of your life - are all important - and the beauty of being a human being is - you can return to them in reality or imagination - and visit and pray in any place we want. Amen.

June 4, 2017


Come Holy Spirit!

Breathe new life
into me - Holy Gust
of fresh air - come
into me - again and again.

Grab me by my shoulders
and  shake me till my
foundations shake and ache.

I need a better
Spirit of forgiveness….
Sometimes I find that
difficult to pull out
of me when another
has hurt me too hard.

I also need many more
characteristics - qualities
that don’t seem to be
working inside me.

For example, I need
courage, creativitity,
insight, integrity,
faith, hope and charity.

Do I just pray for these
gifts - and then watch
and wait till they arrive
or do I focus on one -
for example, faith,
and then work till I’m
putting it into practice?

Is that how prayer and
the gifts of the Holy Spirit work?

Come Holy Spirit.

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017