Saturday, July 29, 2017

July 29, 2017


Do you have any bells ringing
and they send their sound through your windows from a nearby church?

Maybe you do 
and you don't hear them.

Do you have any prayers
coming in your windows
from a nearby church or person?

Maybe they are sounding 
or praying for you and you don't hear them.

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017


Do we have to go home again
to figure out why we left home
in the first place? Distance does
make the heart grow fonder as
well as make the mind go wander.
Sometimes we have to see another
doing what we did, in order to see
what we did in the first place. Life….

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017
Scenes from the movie, Brooklyn

Friday, July 28, 2017


Have you read Dante's Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso?

Before you die - before the Divine Comedy is over or begins, before you enter  Paradiso (Please God, please!) read Dante and see how close he was to how we pictured the hereafter.

Here are a few YouTube presentations on Dante. Go  through the lectures etc. before you read his Divine Comedy.


Once one looks at the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch, we sort of can't forget them. They are tattooed onto one's memory.  

That happened to me.  

When I had the chance to visit Vienna, Austria in 1984, I had on my list of "Must See!" a museum that had some of the paintings of Bosch. "Woo!"  was my reaction.

Then when I was in  Bruges, Belgium, I saw some more of Bosch. Once more I thought, "Woo" and "Woe!"

The following are some talks and some stuff on Bosch. Visit these YouTube videos and find yourself in the middle of some fascinating imaginings. 

You can also find a lot more by going into Google and typing in "Hieronymus Bosch" - as well as, "YouTube Hieronymus Bosch".

July 28, 2017


What was going on in the lives
of Hieronymus Bosch and Dante
Alghieri that they described their
daily life the way they did? Inferno!

My life:  not a golf course of horrors
like Bosch’s canvasses of naked
people jabbing people with spears and
gigantic knives cutting people in half.

Nor like a dark wood - in a midlife
crisis - like Dante’s journey through
an Inferno in the nine circles of hell,
navigating its hills and horrors.*

Daily hell? Of course there are everyday
problems like the crush and rush of
traffic jams - but there are also ice cream
cones on a hot summer night: Paradiso.

So Dante and Bosch - you’re a bit too much.
But Dante and Bosch - when I read your words
and look at your pictures, I’d have to admit,
I want heaven and to be far from hell. Amen.

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017
*"Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita."

Dante [c. 1265-1321]
Great Nose

Dante listening to Dante
with his ear buds....

Thursday, July 27, 2017

JULY  27, 2017


Talking to each other is much
more than words. Sometimes
the other hears our tone, our
volume, and hesitations and
our pauses - and what we are
not saying. Words, words ….
It’s so much more than simply
saying, “I’m listening. I’m here.
I love you. How are you today?”

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

July 26, 2017


My dad made this chair.
I don’t know who painted it last,
but my dad made this chair.

It was down our cellar in Brooklyn
all through our childhood and it
was perfect for our game, “Who’s king!”

He made it from wood he found
on the beach near the 69th Street pier
at the water of  Brooklyn’s Narrows.

My sister told me later on in life
what I never knew all through his life,
“Oh yeah, daddy  made that chair.”

And it’s taken me a lifetime to realize
he made me as well. So dad, king,
sit down and tell me what else you made. 

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Tuesday, July 25, 2017



The title of my homily is, “Broken.”

We all know about broken: broken dishes, bones, a rosary, a heart, a family, a  marriage, an egg, window, cookie, life, etc. etc. etc.



We all know the theme in today’s first reading for this feast of St. James.

Our bodies are earthen vessels.  We are made from the clay of the earth and our bodies break at times like a fragile earthen vessel.

The dream seems to be Unbroken - as in the movie, the book, or an expensive vase - but the reality is that we go through life - and we are broken at times.

The middle east is filled with broken vessels - lots of pieces of clay pots are everywhere.

The Dead Sea Scrolls were found in earthen vessels in caves and the museum that holds the Dead Sea Scrolls is formed in the shape of those same earthen vessels.

A clay pot is a great prop for preaching.  It’s a very clear image in the song that the St. Louis Jesuits came up with: Earthen Vessels. Why don’t we sing that more?  It’s in our Breaking Bread Missalette, #408.

Speaking of broken, how about out missalettes in our church benches. Every year - if they are used -  they break - a page or two comes out by November, the plastic breaks, pages get ripped and folded.

So too people, if we work, if we serve, if we are useful, if we help others, we break. Life.


The key to the message is what’s inside the earthen vessel.

In the middle east people kept property deeds - in earthen vessels.

So too coins, jewelry, and  what have you.

We’re all made of clay.  It’s what’s inside that counts.

And Paul tells us all the things in life that can be inside us. They are realities of life that can make us valuable. We heard them again this morning: afflictions, persecutions, sickness, death - yes death. Get cancer or any sickness inside this clay pot, and  the struggle that results - the faith struggle that comes,  the questioning God that happens - can cause us growth. Suffering can bring us the treasure of wisdom and understanding. 

And it’s not just cancer - lots of other sufferings can be our teachers.  Loss of spouse, loss of children, family misunderstandings, loss of jobs, addictions, all that can make and/or break us.

I know a priest whose alcoholism - and his recovery in AA - helped make him a treasure house of kindness, understanding and wisdom.

I would guess the embarrassment that the Sons of Zebedee experienced because of their mom in today’s gospel - and the anger against them of the other 10 when they saw this happening - her wanting her sons to be #1 and # 2 - brought some changes into their life and her life. [Cf. Matthew 20:20-28.]

The glue of humility and learning from our mistakes is a crazy glue that works and repairs broken vessels.

Brokenness can do that….


Last night - in reading up on this first reading - I found a neat example called, “The Cracked Pot.”  It was in a sermon by a Missy Butler entitled, “Wonderfully Flawed.”

“Many years ago, in a very poor Middle East village, stood an ancient stone well. Alongside of that well sat two large watering pots [which people would use to bring water from the well to their homes]. One of them was like new, beautifully formed, even had graceful etchings along its curved handle.

“The other, not as new yet still useful, had become cracked over the years. Time after time, the pot was passed over by the people with the exception of a little village girl. She had grown fond of the neglected pitcher. Every day she would chose it instead of the beautiful pot.

“One morning, the old pot asked the little girl, ‘Why do you continue to use me, when you know I am flawed and cannot hold the water you and your family so desperately need?" The little girl spoke not a word, but carried the broken pot to a familiar pathway that she traveled daily.

“With her tiny voice she said, ‘This is why I pick you.’ There before the pot was a row of delicate wild flowers that had bloomed along the trail because of the water that had trickled and leaked from the pot. The buried seeds of the flowers had been watered as she made her way home each day. The cracked pot for the first time had seen its worth through the eyes of a grateful little girl.”


My conclusion is the last sentence in today’s first reading. Notice the word “overflow” in it. The sentence: “Everything indeed is for you, so that the grace bestowed in abundance on more and more people may cause the thanksgiving to overflow for the glory of God.”
July 25, 2017


I didn't know that.

Uh oh....
Will that happen to me?
Yes, to some.
Will that happen to you?
To some, yes,
but I hope not to me
when it comes to you.

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Monday, July 24, 2017



The title of my homily for this 16th Monday in Ordinary Time  is, “Big Numbers.”


When I hear the story about the Egyptian Army in today’s first reading about to be drowned, I think of other major mass deaths. Obviously, one major source for picturing this is Charlton Heston in the movie, Ten Commandments as well as in Bible and Bible school pictures.


What happens in heaven when there is a big rush on deaths?

Sometimes I think of that when it comes to major catastrophes.

Sorry, maybe you came to church today - to think thoughts of peace.

Or when it comes to God.  should the question be different,?

If God sent his Son in the fullness of time, way back when, because of our behavior, then does God go “Oh no!” with major murders and killings?

I think of questions like this at times.

So when there are massive deaths, there is an impact on us - and I assume on God.

But ….


Between 1970-2013  in the United States there is an estimate of 51,888,303 abortions.

Last year I read Immaculee Ilibagiza’s book, Left to Tell: One Woman’s Story of Surviving the Rwandan Genocide. It was a page turner as well as a stomach turner. Families, children, villages, people were machetted to death. The numbers - as in any reporting of genocide - were estimates. In the Rwandan, there were from 500,000 to a million Tutsis  killed in a 100 day period from April 7, 1994 till July 1994.

We have often heard of the Aremenian genocide starting in April of 1915. The Turks killed perhaps 1.5 million Armenians.

We might remember Pol Pot and the Cambodian Genocide. Between 1975 and 1979 the Khmer Rouge are estimated to have killed from 1.5 to 3 million Cambodians.

Then from time to time we read or hear about the Nazi holocaust against the Jews - 6 million and so many others killed.

In the last century, we hear that Stalin and the Soviets, Mao and the Chinese communists,  killed up to 100 million people.

Then there are lists of Salvadorans, Guatamalians, and lots of other people killed in wars and genocide and on and on and on.

Big numbers ….


What is our reaction to such horror stories?

We hear in the psalms the refrain, “The Lord hears the cries of the poor.”

I respond to God, “It’s not enough to just hear the cries of the poor, what are you doing about helping them?” 

I know we’re supposed to do our part and more - but God, what about you?

Didn’t the police in Florida last week want to arrest some teenagers for filming a drowning man and doing nothing - except to laugh?

I don’t know about you - but I wonder about God - and all this.


I know my thoughts and feelings - at least some thoughts and feelings - when I walked through the Holocaust museum in both Jerusalem and Washington D.D. I see that book by Immaculee Ilibagiza’s, Left to Tell: One Woman’s Story of Surviving the Rwandan Genocide. I still feel the horror.

I remember the nausea I felt Thanksgiving 1978 when the TV news reports showed the hundreds of bodies that Jim Jones asked to take the Non-Kool-Aid poison and die.

I know we’re all going to die, somehow, but with horror, that’s horrible.

I realize that death is part of life. I realize life would not be life, if there wasn’t death. Death forces us to ponder meaning, our existence, our time line. Death gets us to care for the dying. We can’t imagine a world with everyone who ever lived, never dying. Talk about geography, space, health care centers, etc. etc. etc. No….

We learn life from death. It gives us plenty of thoughts.

We know people have free will and can do crazy things like kill other people.

As to the question of God intervening, I have my questions. I have my major answer, “I don’t know.”

I have heard a dozen sermons where a priest tells the story of the man in the flood. He prays and prays to be saved. A row boat comes, but he won’t get on it. A helicopter hovers over his house with a ladder, but he won’t get on the ladder. He keeps praying till he dies. Then when he sees God, he asks, “Why did you let me drown?” And God says, “I sent you a rowboat and  I sent you a helicopter, but you refused my help.”

It’s a fine story, but there were few helicopters over the crowds in Rwanda or Auscwitz. How does all this work.

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

I’m sure millions of people escaped massacres - but billions didn’t.

How does all this work?

Single deaths and big numbers of dead - trigger these life thoughts and prayers. 
July 24, 2017


Didn’t you know that life
is rarely a straight line:
it wiggles and waves,
it twists and turns,
it shakes and quakes,
it rattles and rolls,
and just when we think
the line is final -
it unravels and it unfolds….
Smile, surprise or did
you simply forget?
We’re just like God,  
made in in God’s image
and made in God’s likeness?

 © Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Sunday, July 23, 2017



The title of my homily for this 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time [A]  is, “Wheat and Weeds.”

There are three parables in today’s gospel.  Let me just look at the first of the 3 parables - that of the wheat and the weeds. [Cf. Matthew 13:24-43.]

That’s the one the disciples asked Jesus, “Please explain?”


I read a few times in commentaries about this gospel story of the wheat and the weeds that there was a story that floated around in Jesus’ time about someone planting in the night some weed seed in another farmer’s wheat field - to get back at him or for spite or what have you.  I have trouble picturing someone coming up with weed seeds, but that’s the story.

Well, as the weeds grew they looked like wheat - but then - it became evident that there were weeds. Someone ruined this farmer’s wheat  crop with weeds.

His farmhands asked, “Should we pull up the weeds?”

“No” -  the owner of the field said, “The roots are intertwined and you’ll ruin both. We’ll wait for harvest time and then we’ll separate the good from the bad. The bad will be burned.”

Guess who did the separating?

Answer: Women!


Commentators on the scriptures said that Jesus must have heard the story and adopted it for his preaching.

So today we heard the parable and we heard  the following explanation from Jesus.

The field is the whole world.  The Son of Man is the sower.  The Good Seed are the children of the kingdom.  The Weeds are the Children of the Evil One. The devil is the one who sows evil.  The harvest is the hereafter. The harvesters are the angels.  The bad - the weeds  - will be collected along with the good stuff - the wheat.  The bad goes into the fiery furnace. The good become good bread - for communion for all at the eternal banquet.

I think most people get that.


It’s 2017. Few of us are farmers - but I’m sure some of you have gardens and lawns - and you deal with weeds.

How to make this parable have a practical message?

I think we can make this parable of Jesus more personal if we see our brain, our minds, our memory as a field.

Good and evil has been planted in this field called me.

We’ve all heard the TV commercial that says, “What’s in your wallet?”

Well, let me ask, “What’s in your brain? What’s in your mind? What’s in your memory?”

We speak the language we speak, because that’s the language we heard all around us, growing up.

We are the sum total of a lot of experiences - the parents, the grandparents, the schools, the teachers, the friends we had.

Question: are we more malleable, more ready to be formed, when we are younger?  Does our brain, our memory, have a saturation point? How much random access memory do we have?


TV commercials have the job to plant a lot of commercials in our brain so that when we walk down the aisle of the supermarket - we buy what we heard on TV, “Buy me!” When we drive up or down West Street we stop in Wendy’s instead of McDonald's or Burger King.

Our memories are memorizing lots of stuff as we go down the roads and aisles of life - or when we’re couch potatoes - watching TV and ads about potato chips.

When I’m standing up here babbling out a homily, I’m wondering where people are. Let’s be honest, most of us are elsewhere most of the time. I look at people and at times I want to go WAVE - WAVE - WAVE with my hand.  When we’re watching television isn’t the TV commercial trying to interrupt our thoughts - because we could be actually watching TV - or we're elsewhere. We’re into tomorrow or last week or wondering about a cookout or a parent who is getting Alzheimer’s.

After Mass or after  a Baptism or a wedding, moms and dads are often standing here with little kids in their arms. I often ask myself or parents, “What is your kid looking at?”

Parents often say, “Taking it all in. They don’t miss a trick.”

And it’s a good sign when older folks get nervous when kids are present and someone is making a fool of themselves - drinking or cursing or what have you.

We’ve all heard the message, “Garbage in; garbage out.”


I read about Doctor Wilder Penfield - Neurosurgeon - way back in the 1970’s. In brain operations - trying to help people with epilepsy - and other brain problems - he kept people awake for some procedures and operations, so as to map the brain. Some of his findings are still used. Of course people were sedated and numbed etc.

The sensational news was that he was able to touch people’s memories and out came past history.  In time this discovery was toned down - and minimized and clarified - but there were at times by touching certain parts of a person's brain, they got in touch with memories. His teams also mapped out what part of the brain moves our left big toe or what have you.

What I got out of that was an “Uh oh!”

I thought: If it’s all in here, I better be careful what I let in here [Point to head.]

Our long term memory is amazing. At times - memories pop up about something that happened when we were kids - and we say, “What triggered that?”

For example this morning I was at the 7:30 Mass at St. John Neumann and I remembered something my Godmother said 50 years ago. Nan, my Godmother is long dead - but she said to me, “You have your dad’s smile and your dad was the perfect gentleman - all the ladies said that.”

Why did that hit me today? I don’t know - but I’ll give it some thought.

It was a good experience and a good memory - because my dad was absolutely quiet and I’ve often wondered in my old age about my dad.

The latest story about my dad went like this. My sister, Mary, is sorting out family papers. In a box, she found a newspaper clipping about my dad’s brother falling 4 floors in a building construction job in Pittsburgh.  My dad had to take a train from New York to Pittsburgh to get the body and take it to Portland, Maine for burial. Both brothers were single at the time. I would love to ask my dad what that was like for him. I thank God for my dad giving me the gift of life and his smile. I don’t want to lose that legacy. Yet I have so many questions and my dad’s black box, his flight recorder, his brain, his memory, is long gone.


In thinking about all this for this homily, I remember going for a 7 hour drive by myself. I began looking for some audio tapes.  I didn’t have time to shoot over to the library for talking books.

I'm driving along listening to a tape that I hadn’t listened to in 25 years. Surprise I’m hearing a story from a Jesuit priest that I thought I made up.

I shut the tape off and began listening to myself about what had just happened.

I began wondering if I was ever original?

I asked if I ever got caught for plagiarizing.  If I use someone else’s material I try to get that person credit.

I laughed.

I realized we’re all in this together.

Is anyone original?

I realized that we can listen to another when it comes to politics - and know what TV stations they use.

Just like trying to selling Nikes or hamburgers, people are trying to sell a political stance or value or what have you.

I began thinking, “Do people who put out ads or political commentary ask themselves, ‘Is this true?’”

Is anybody willing to be a whistle blower when it comes to promoting anything?


The best message and the message I would stress this morning would be, “The Moral Pause.”

Many times each day I can think before I speak - especially when it’s about another person.

I have to think before I preach - but I also have to think before I speak about the preacher.

I can’t fathom how anyone could come up with a virus and send it out to ruin other person’s computers  - but I know people do that. Does anyone ever say, “You can’t do that.” Just as did the guy who planted the weeds have another with him in the night? If yes, did that person say, “Why are you doing this?”

In the meanwhile I can say things about another that ruins them - planting weeds into the coffee break crowd….


Seeing words as seeds - wheat or weed - compliments or curse - truth or falsehood - secrets or gossip - can make this gospel story real today - even if we know nothing about farming. Amen.
July 23, 2017


Fading, fading ….
We avoid it
and we ignore  it.

We only have
so much time
and we know it.

Like the cover
of a paperback book
left on a window sill, we fade.

Life, I better do a lot more
between my covers to be novel
and to enjoy telling my story.

Fading, fading ….
Who me? Yes me.
I know it and I don’t like it .

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017