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There’s givers and takers in this world, and football jock Jon Kitna definitely qualifies as a giver.

Jon Kitna has never exactly been a household name in the world of pro football, but it turns out that he's an All-Pro when it comes to generous giving.

Jon Kitna has never exactly been a household name in the world of pro football, but it turns out that he’s an All-Pro when it comes to generous giving.

From CBS Sports online:

    “41-year-old Jon Kitna, the Dallas Cowboys new backup quarterback, is going to pull in a nice little $53,000 payday for the week of Christmas. But he’s going to put it to good use.

    “Kitna, per the Dallas Morning-News, is going to donate the money he earns with the Cowboys to the Tacoma, Wash. high school where he teaches math.

    “He’d been pushing protractors at Lincoln High School for a few years now since leaving the NFL in 2011 after three years of playing for the Cowboys as the backup to Tony Romo.”

I mean, seriously?

Kitna is making $53,000 for a week of what will most likely be easy, pain-free pay sitting on the bench as a temp hire for the Cowboys–and he’s giving all that money to the high school where he slugs away as a math teacher?

You have to wonder what his yearly teaching salary is, which isn’t mentioned. But, obviously, $53K in earnings in one week is more than most of the working slugs in any field outside of NFL football make in a year.

Wow.

More on the story here.

A hillside home on Christmas Eve here in San Ignacio, Belize.

A hillside home on Christmas Eve here in San Ignacio, Belize.

A few of the candle bearers on a recent night in a customary Posada procession in the village of Benque, Belize. Posadas are  holy celebrations observed mainly in Mexico and here in Central America as well as some parts of the U.S. where Franciscan monks introduced the Advent custom. Scroll down for more info about Posadas.

A few of the candle bearers on a recent night in a customary Posada procession in the village of Benque, Belize. Posadas are very holy celebrations observed mainly in Mexico and here in Central America as well as some parts of the U.S. where Franciscan monks introduced the Advent custom. Scroll down for more info about Posadas.

The meaning of Christmas has been described a million ways to Sunday and then some millions of ways to-boot.

But it all boils down to three mere words:

“Love came down.”

That ultimate, safe love is the one thing that every breathing human on earth wants, needs, yearns for, and craves when it’s missing in one’s life.

Every human, breathing being–who is just a product and child of God–needs love as much as oxygen and food and water.

The good news is, the ultimate love that came down in the form of an innocent child–a kid that needed nurturing love like any other baby child on earth– indeed came down from the ultimate source of love.

Pure, unadultered love is God’s gift to the world and ours for the taking and for the sharing, so share it generously.

And here’s hoping that you have yourself a merry and joyous Christmas and large Jitterbug time.

* Posada means “inn” or “shelter” in Spanish. Posada celebrations recreate Mary and Joseph’s search for a place to stay in Bethlehem and are held on each of the nine nights leading up to Christmas, from Dec. 16 to 24th.

Posadas are held in neighborhoods across Mexico and Central America including Belize, where there are processions with walkers bearing candles, and sometimes with individuals selected to play the parts of Mary and Joseph. The procession makes its way to a particular home (a different one each night), where a special song is sung. In this song those outside the house sing the part of Joseph asking for shelter and the family inside responds singing the part of the innkeeper saying that there is no room. The song switches back and forth a few times until finally the innkeeper decides to let them in. The door is opened and everyone goes inside.

Inside the house there is a celebration which can vary from a big party to a small get-together among friends, but some Bible reading, singing and prayer are included.

The nine nights of Posadas leading up to Christmas represent the nine months that Jesus spent in Mary’s womb, or nine days of the journey to Bethlehem.

It’s a wonderful way of keeping Jesus as the reason for the season.

When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint.

“When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist.”

Hélder Câmara

"Unto us a (pick one) liberal, conservative, Democrat, Republican, Tea Partier, Socialist/Marxist projection of God in your own sin-tainted image is born.

“Unto us a (pick one) liberal, conservative, Democrat, Republican, Tea Partier, Socialist/Marxist projection of God in your own sin-tainted image is born.

In a time when a Christ-like Pope, who is the religious leader that all the world so desperately needs right now, can’t criticize the social-sin side of capitalism without being labeled (attacked, that is) as a liberal, a socialist, or a Marxist, or characterized as some kind of naive, economic stooge who doesn’t understand the free-enterprise system . . .

Here’s what I propose are some basics in Christian Politics/Economics 101 to mull on:

Jesus wasn’t born homeless, into this unstable world in a stable, in order to give the world liberalism, conservatism, communism, socialism, libertarianism or any other “ism” as we in the modern world know all those economic and political “isms.”

Political “isms,” as we in the modern world know them, didn’t even exist when Jesus walked in a Roman-owned and -operated world.

* * * *

Economic and political “isms” are constructed, maintained and sustained by us, the sin-tainted men and women of this broken, messy world, and by leaders who–whether they are chosen or self-appointed–sin their way to their power, their control and the riches and privileges they enjoy, while promising us promises that we, if we get to elect them, want to hear.

They know and we know they will break their promises to us, and yet we go back for more of their promises every time.

Unlike your favorite Democrat or your favorite Republican, your favorite liberal or conservative, Jesus didn’t break promises and would condemn all our contemporary politicians and pundits with the intense vigor that he always mustered in condemning hypocrites.

* * * *

Democrats and liberals and Republicans and conservatives and all the power brokers and holders promise to hang the moon for us, as if the moon and the stars and the earth that God hung for us weren’t enough.

* * * *

It doesn’t matter if they are liberal, conservative or capitalist or socialist–they who have leadership (i.e., power and control over money and resources and human lives, too) lie.

They lie usually by omission, by what they are NOT telling us, rather than what they are telling us.

Jesus was no lie.

* * * *

Jesus didn’t come into this world to run with those political packs that we pick and choose to live under, and that we support with our votes and dollars and meaningless bumper stickers on the chrome of our shiny cars.

Jesus wasn’t “a” liberal, “a” conservative, “a” anything except “the” savior and “the” redeemer of the world, and, in addition, the non-violent, truth-personified prophet from the Godhead, fighting and vocalizing against the forces of oppression and power and control and money and speaking on behalf of those who had no power and control and money.

Jesus was not a liberal or conservative because all the people involved in all those political and economic arenas are sin-filled to such an extent that they will say or do most anything to keep their power and money and our support.

* * * *

So remember this: Jesus didn’t come to give the world anything whatsoever like that which the modern-day, non-eternal Republican or Democratic or Socialist or Tea Partiers might be trying to sell to us and the world at this particular point in time in world history.

If anything, Jesus came to give this messy, broken-up world of messy, broken-up people a “Love Party” for the ages, and no politician or pundit can give the world that for the ages.

Only Jesus came to initiate a “Love and Grace Party” (i.e., the Kingdom of God) for all people in all places for all times.

Or what might be called an eternal “Love and Grace and Peace Party.”

Whatever you call it, it sure as a toot wasn’t your American or any other country’s modern-day political party.

Peace be with you and peace on earth, good will to all.

*What follows is only a portion of what Pope Francis actually said in criticizing “unbridled” capitalism in his nearly 300-page document that was entitled “The Joy of the Gospel.”

It seems to me that the critics of his criticism of capitalism miss the point of the entire document, which is that forces, including but not exclusively economic forces, at are work inhibiting joy and the joy of the gospel in the world today. Click here to read and make your own judgment without help from those who fear any criticism of capitalism.

    Just as the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.

    Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a “throw away” culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the “exploited” but the outcast, the “leftovers”.

    54. In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase. In the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.

    No to the new idolatry of money

    55. One cause of this situation is found in our relationship with money, since we calmly accept its dominion over ourselves and our societies. The current financial crisis can make us overlook the fact that it originated in a profound human crisis: the denial of the primacy of the human person! We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf (cf. Ex 32:1-35) has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings; man is reduced to one of his needs alone: consumption.

    56. While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules. Debt and the accumulation of interest also make it difficult for countries to realize the potential of their own economies and keep citizens from enjoying their real purchasing power. To all this we can add widespread corruption and self-serving tax evasion, which have taken on worldwide dimensions. The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.

    No to a financial system which rules rather than serves

    57. Behind this attitude lurks a rejection of ethics and a rejection of God. Ethics has come to be viewed with a certain scornful derision. It is seen as counterproductive, too human, because it makes money and power relative. It is felt to be a threat, since it condemns the manipulation and debasement of the person. In effect, ethics leads to a God who calls for a committed response which is outside the categories of the marketplace. When these latter are absolutized, God can only be seen as uncontrollable, unmanageable, even dangerous, since he calls human beings to their full realization and to freedom from all forms of enslavement. Ethics – a non-ideological ethics – would make it possible to bring about balance and a more humane social order. With this in mind, I encourage financial experts and political leaders to ponder the words of one of the sages of antiquity: “Not to share one’s wealth with the poor is to steal from them and to take away their livelihood. It is not our own goods which we hold, but theirs”.[55]

    58. A financial reform open to such ethical considerations would require a vigorous change of approach on the part of political leaders. I urge them to face this challenge with determination and an eye to the future, while not ignoring, of course, the specifics of each case. Money must serve, not rule! The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but he is obliged in the name of Christ to remind all that the rich must help, respect and promote the poor. I exhort you to generous solidarity and to the return of economics and finance to an ethical approach which favours human beings.

Take time for the spiritual path as Christmas approaches. Take time for intentional, meditative breathing, breathing in the sweet air of God's mercy and grace, breathing out your stress, your hard feelings, whatever pent-up junk needs to be released for you to find grace and peace and a portion of inner joy.

Take time for the spiritual path as Christmas approaches. Take time for intentional, meditative breathing, breathing in the sweet air of God’s mercy and grace, breathing out your stress, your hard feelings, whatever pent-up junk needs to be released for you to find grace and peace and a portion of inner joy.

This morning on my Facebook page I posted the following breathing meditation by Benedictine Sister Mary Elizabeth Schweiger, one of the contributors to the daily Advent reflections I’ve been receiving daily from The National Catholic Reporter.

The posting of her meditation on Facebook received a number of FB likes and shares. It seemed to resonate with my Facebook friends at this frenzied time of year when the clock is ticking, the unpaid bills for all those presents are piling up, and the ever-opportunistic “culture warriors”
won’t allow the peace on earth and good will toward all, which is supposed to prevail this time of year to prevail.

Anyway, with no further of that old ado, here’s the Advent Air Support I shared on Facebook from Her Holiness Sister Schweiger:

    Try this form of spiritual meditation, involving the breath, from Benedictine Sister Mary Elizabeth Schweiger, and feel the peace:

    “Amidst the hustle and bustle of this season, we find that we need to take some deep breaths.

    “Breathe in the air we so often take for granted.

    “Breathe out all that is selfish, fearful and negative.

    “Breathe in the generosity and affirmation that is expressed in so many ways.

    “Breathe out hatred, lies and hopelessness.

    “Breathe in the mystery of God becoming human.

    “Is that not breathtaking?”

The other day I had a life experience or a sad adventure or whatever you might call what I would call a lesson in what Advent is about.

The bridge into San Ignacio, BZ, has been under water twice since Oct. 27, this time for going on two weeks. The raining and mudding and flooding cause quiet desperation and hardship as people wait for relief.

The bridge into San Ignacio, BZ, has been under water twice since Oct. 27, this time for going on two weeks. The raining and mudding and flooding cause quiet desperation and hardship as people wait for relief.


It’s been a most abnormal weather year in Belize–a quietly disastrous year because of a freakish series of cold fronts sweeping down from the Yucatan and remaining stationary, dumping rain on us for days on end.

For sure, if you live in Belize, you live and plow ahead with a lot rain, in certain months, in a country famous for its beautiful and pristine rain forests.

But the rain this year has been freakish, and, as I alluded to, disastrous in a quiet way. Belizeans have carried on through all of the hardship of the raining, mudding and flooding that have rendered so many roads and bridges impassable for days, and even weeks on end. Belizeans are accomplished at shrugging off hardship without much complaint and certainly without any whining.

(I have to say that until I moved to Belize, I never realized how much that I, and most of my fellow American bloods, whine, and whine about every little thing. I like to think I’ve been cured of whining in facing the daily challenges of assimilating in a poverty-wracked country that presents me with unique hardships, and a culture so alien to the one that I was privileged to live and thrive in for 62 years, pre-Belize. If I’m cured any of whining it’s because Belizeans, being the strong survivors that they and people in poor places including pockets of poverty in America are, have rubbed off on me.)

* * * *

Now mind you . . . even with the terrible ripple effects that the flooding has had on the economy and livelihoods here–with tourism and the sugar cane crops largely wiped out just since a huge wave of rain struck back in late October–it’s a far cry from a disaster on the scale of what crushed a big part of The Philippines recently.

But the frequent waves of rain here have contributed to widespread suffering, with the masses of Belizeans, who never whine, living nonetheless in what I see as the kind of quiet desperation of which Thoreau famously spoke. One of those recent, frequent waves of rain and flooding contributed to a death that I happened to end up witnessing at a hospital–a death that drove home that lesson to me about Advent, which I read in a Catholic magazine and will get to here.

* * * *

I was strolling to town one day, prepared to pull the trigger on my industrial-size umbrella in spite of a break in the rain at the time. Along the way I stopped to talk to a Belizean friend, who along with his two sons was about to head up to a remote place up in the mountainous bush to check on an elderly couple from their church.

My friend explained that the couple, who attended church services or functions whenever they could walk down their hillside home to a road to catch a ride–whenever weather permitted–had not been seen nor heard from for what my friend simply said was “too long.” The friend and his sons were going to check on them and invited me to tag along, and I did.

And I’m glad they had an extra pair of knee-high rubber boots for me.

When I say the elderly couple lived in a remote part of the bush, picture us grinding up a road in my friend’s 4-wheel truck, with the road looking like mud soup for miles. Then imagine the four of us getting out of my friend’s truck and wading our way through for the next fifty minutes, in our knee-high rubber boots, to the home of the couple.

All this with it raining off and on.

Mostly on.

* * * *

When we arrived at the couple’s homestead, the elderly woman came running out in the rain to greet us and embraced my friend. “I’ve been waiting and praying,” she told him, half weeping and half smiling with joy. “I knew you’d be coming to help us.”

What we found in the house was her husband, hanging on to life by a thread, suffering from what was to me the obvious stroke that was later confirmed, and him dehydrated.

Long story short–we made a makeshift stretcher and got the man and his wife out of the virtual swamp to the hospital in town, where he was transferred to a better hospital down the highway and actually appeared, for a few days, to have a chance of recovering.

Sad to say, the end of the story is that he didn’t live, and probably didn’t have a realistic chance of doing so (and especially no realistic chance in a third-world public hospital in Belize).

It occurred to me in my processing all this life experience in beautiful Belize that the couple’s being stranded by too much rain and mud took its toll, and that too much rain and mud in Belize takes a lot of tolls on a lot of lives in a lot of ways that don’t get reported nor even much noticed.

And then there’s the heat waves some weeks and months here, by the way, which take their tolls, too, in striking down people with heat strokes and such. For all its image as a pristine Eden and playground for adventure or relaxation–which it can be–Belize can be one hell of an unforgiving place to live and survive in for the masses of poor and desperate people who smile through so much of it with that famous Belizean sense of joy and hope.

* * * *

In one of an ongoing series of Advent reflections published in The National Catholic Reporter, Sister Judith Sutera wrote something that really resonated with me after seeing that woman run out of the house to say to my friend who is her friend from her church and say those words: “I’ve been waiting; I knew you’d be coming to help us!”

Wrote Sr. Sutera:

    In this season of waiting, so many people are not waiting for holiday gifts or celebrations. They wait for the violence around them to stop, for aid after natural disasters, for return from refugee camps and battlefields and prisons. Even the smallest rays of light that we can provide by our efforts pushes back some of the darkness and, when joined to that of others, may begin to light a path of hope.

The connection is obvious, isn’t it? Even though the man we went to check on eventually passed from this sometimes harsh and broken world, my friend made the effort to get to the sick man and his wife, who had been waiting and praying in desperation, but also in her steadfast faith and hope in God, her friend and her whole church family that rallied around her.

Seeing her face light up when we arrived at her house–seeing her embrace her friend from her church family–was something to behold on that wet and dreary hillside homestead, in this wet and dreary Advent Season where so many wait and pray for relief.

P1050543

El Greco's "The Nativity"

El Greco’s “The Nativity”

What a holy it was that night in 1994 in that Harlem church when the gifted Mariah Carey–who along with that five-octave range surely has the voice of God Himself/Herself–sang the most gorgeous version of the most holy of Christmas songs, with her accompanied by that holy Spirited Harlem church choir.

If her version of this holiest of Christ-mas songs doesn’t give you goose bumps, get to a hospital and have them check your pulse for some sign of the life that God breathed into you at your own holy birth.

Jesus–the great “I AM”–outside the Catholic Church at San Pedro on the Belizean island of Ambergris Caye.

“I am the way, the truth and the life.”

— John 14: 6

    “But Moses said to God, ‘If I come to the Israelites and say to them, “The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,” and they ask me, “What is his name?” what shall I say to them?’ God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am.’ He said further, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “I am has sent me to you.”’ God also said to Moses, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you”: This is my name for ever, and this my title for all generations.”

    — Exodus 3: 13-15

When we think of the story of the birth of Jesus, we who are Christians don’t think of the seven-branch golden lamp stand called the menorah (“tree of life”), or the ark of the covenant, or Eden and the creation story, all from the Old Testament.

And yet the Christian New Testament is all tied up with everything in the Old–including the birth story, such as it is, in the gospel of John.

"You shall make a lampstand of pure gold." From Exodus 25.

“You shall make a lampstand of pure gold.” From Exodus 25.

The following is adapted from Jesus: A Theography, a wonderful and instructive book of Christology by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola. They refer here to the birth narrative in the gospel of John as “the birth narrative that no one reads at Christmas:

    “John’s gospel tells the story of Jesus’ birth in as storyless a way as possible . . .

    “John’s birth narrative is structured in the signage of seven I AM metaphors, which function as a menorah that highlights the birth of Jesus just as the seven-branch golden lamp stand called the menorah (“tree of life”) illuminated the ark of the covenant in the Holy of Holies, and the original Tree of Life lit up the garden of Eden.

    “The seven I AM metaphorical statements of Jesus in the gospel of John are followed by their corresponding circumstances in the story of Jesus’ birth:

    “I am the bread of life.”
    — Jesus was born in Bethlehem, which means ‘house of bread.’

    “I am the light of the world.”
    — Jesus was born under the light of the star of Bethlehem.

    “I am the door of the sheep.”
    — The doors of the guest house were closed to Mary and Joseph, but the gate to the stable was open.

    “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives his life for his sheep.”

    — Baby Jesus was sought by shepherds looking for a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths (used for birth or burial) and lying in a manger..

    “I am the resurrection and the life.”
    — Jesus survived King Herod’s attempt to kill him.

    “I am the way, the truth and the life.”
    — Wise men found their way to Him, recognized the truth about him, and defied King Herod’s evil plot.

    “I am the true vine.”
    — Jesus was born in Bethlehem Ephrathah, which means “fruitful.”

    “There is no higher understanding of Jesus’ divinity as ‘The Son of God’ than John’s gospel. There is no fuller understanding of Jesus’ humanity as the ‘Son of Adam’ (or ‘the human being’) than John’s gospel.

    “John is the I AM gospel because Jesus appears in His mysterious ‘I AM-ness’ as part of the triune life of the Godhead while Jesus is also present in His concreteness as ‘I am the door.’ ‘I am the true vine.’ ‘I am the Good Shepherd,’ and so on.

    “In the gospel of John, Jesus stands with his Head in eternity and His feet in Eden. . .”

"Rejoice in the Lord always. The Lord is always near." Philippians 4:  4-5

“Rejoice in the Lord always. The Lord is always near.” Philippians 4: 4-5

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