Thank you for coming to St. Mary, Star of the Sea Parish today for Mass to celebrate the Birth of Christ Jesus with your faith community.  We know that you could choose 1) to not go to Mass because Christmas is such a busy time or 2) to go to any other parish.  We are grateful and blessed that you are here.

I have been hearing  a lot of stories (from friends, co-workers, Catholic radio,  talk-show celebrities) about the abundance in our world, about children that get everything they need and most of what they want all year long.   Many have said that they are giving just one small gift to each child and taking the rest of the money they would have spent to sponsor a family who is less fortunate.

Members of our parish adopted twenty families this year.  When the families were interviewed, they were extremely humbled by being asked.  They were asked to suggest something they needed and something they wanted.

Most said they needed a blanket, or shoes, or a coat.  They usually ask for a blanket because they can’t afford to run the heater.  I know that we don’t live in COLD country, but 40 degrees in plenty cold!

Maybe you didn’t have the opportunity to sponsor a family this year at Christmas.  The BIG SECRET is that these families are in need all year long.

We currently have fifty families that come here each month for groceries.  We give them staple items for their pantries and a grocery store gift card ($20-25) to purchase fresh produce or dairy products.   It’s not that much.  To us.  It must help them quite a bit because they are so genuinely grateful.

We have 30-40 people who come every weekday for a nutritious sack lunch.  They receive a sandwich that was made fresh that same day by dedicated volunteers, a piece of fruit, something sweet, and a bottle of water.  This may be the only good food that this person gets all day.  Or they may be scamming and get food all over town, or they may be a beach bum.  But it’s not our place to judge.  We cheerfully give each person a lunch and tell them God Bless You!

The ministry that orchestrates these food-related projects is FEED MY PEOPLE.  There is always room for more people to help and if you cannot physically help out, a monetary donation would always be appreciated.

The flip side of looking beyond ourselves comes from a sense of GRATITUDE.    It comes when we look at our own lives, the opportunities we have had (and hopefully been wise enough to take), the graces we have been bestowed, the blessing of good people around us, and the strength to know when we need to ask for help.

We also recognize that we have been given a unique combination of gifts and talents to help us better love and serve the Lord and each other.

These are not gifts that come wrapped in a bow, but they are PRICELESS.  Unique to only you.  They are gifts that are meant to be used in all that we do and shared freely.  During Lent, we will have a Parish Mission that focuses on how to recognize our gifts.  Stay tuned.        Merry Christmas!