Turn Away from Sin and Be Faithful to the Gospel
Togetherness has given us strength. Let us build our families to be even stronger.
Deacon Patrick Constantino | Photos courtesy Dcn. Patrick Constantino
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Matthew.
Jesus said to his disciples: Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them, otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.
The Gospel of the Lord! Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ!
God wants to change our hearts, life, so that his light can warm and brighten our life and faith, in our lives as a family!
Let us pray for our Christian families in Ukraine and Russia that our world leaders restore peace and love in this world! We dedicate ourselves in Prayer, Almsgiving and Fasting as we receive the Ashes in the form of the Cross of Christ this day! Amen!
Let’s get to the heart of the matter of why we are here today. Though this isn’t a holy day of obligation, most Catholics and many other Christians make their way to church on Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. Why? The word Lent comes from the word for lengthening–referring to the lengthening of daylight hours in the Northern Hemisphere. As the sun’s light shines longer each day, warming and brightening the Earth, it stirs new life into being. Let’s face it, most of us are weary of the short, dark and barren days of winter. We long for the warmth of the sun and the life it generates as the days lengthen. We mark this day with our presence because we have known the light that warms and brightens our lives as Christians—our beginnings—Jesus Christ, God from God—our present—Light from Light—our future! We long for a fullness of life in Him and we grow weary of the darkness of sin. We are here to ask Him to stir within us a contrite heart, humble and repentant. We mark this time of turning back to God with ashes on our foreheads, gathering as the reading from Joel describes, to: Proclaim a Fast, call an Assembly; Gather the people, notify the congregation; Assemble the elders, gather the children and the infants at the breast.
But we don’t gather in order that people may see us; we are to mend our hearts not our garments. In our almsgiving, our fasting and our prayer, Jesus says do not be like the hypocrites who do these things so that others may see them. We give, fast and pray because we seek clean hearts and renewed spirits, not recognition from others. Jesus tells us that God will see and reward us for the sincere, humble and private acts we perform to help us grow in our love for Him. God wants us to turn to Him with our whole hearts. As we do, we will discover ways we can become closer to Him. We will also recognize the things in our lives that separate us from His love. We need only turn to Him seeking His forgiveness. He wants to change our hearts so His light can warm and brighten our lives and will appeal to others through us. He wants it so much He sent His Son to die for our sins so we could become like Him! Seeking the light His love brings to our lives, let us pray with the Psalmist: “A clean heart create for me, o God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me!”
Lord, with steadfast spirit renew our church, know how important family life and faith is to families. Let us renew our family life!
These last two years of COVID-19 have been very hard for families. As we continue to navigate this pandemic, we can see there have been consequences that have affected our faith families—socially, psychologically, physically, economically and spiritually. As families are being encouraged to return to church, we need to listen to their needs and give them reasons to seek our safe harbor of the Church. It is so important we increase our efforts to strengthen marriage and families across all parishes. There will not be another time like now. We know our churches face the challenge of addressing numerous marital and family situations that are more complex than in previous decades. So many couples and families face these challenges head on, many times believing that they are the only ones going through the difficulty. Yet there is consolation and hope in knowing we are all in this together. The church is the family of families. We are one ‘ohana. And as Disney’s Stich character says, “ ‘Ohana means family and family means no one gets left behind or forgotten.” Family life—though not without its challenges—is a great gift! It is in the family that all of us learn what it means to love and be loved, to forgive and how to maintain relationships over time. There was a time when the church was central to the life of families. At a young age I remember my Mom dressing my sister and I for Mass on Sundays. No questions asked. Just get ready and attend. The church was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. I loved dipping my hand in the Holy Water to make the sign of the Cross. As I got older, Mom made sure we attended Religious Ed to receive all my sacraments. Even before the pandemic, the concept of family has undergone many changes. “Family” includes married couples, with or without children, single, divorced, widowed, young or elderly, two-parent families, single-parent families, blended families, families with special needs and families in various life cycles or development. Trying to renew the understanding that families are the building blocks of our faith communities is the focus of the newly formed Diocesan Task Force for Marriage and Family Life Ministry. Lee and Tanya Barbero of St. Anthony Church and members of the Marriage and Family Life Ministry Task Force explain why this concept of ministry from a family perspective is so relevant today. “Everything we do touches families. It is woven into the fabric of Church. Family Life Ministry is not another ‘new thing to do’ but rather a new awareness of what we have been doing all along, looking at what we do through the lens of family life and responding to the needs of our families. This is an opportunity to learn and understand the basics of this new way to reach the unique needs of families in our faith community. Together we can build a strong foundation going forward.” Knowing we are not going through challenges and joys alone, can help to create a sense of community. When families accompany each other, hopes, love is restored and joy is renewed. “Let us make this journey as families, let us keep walking together. What we have been promised is greater than we can imagine. May we never lose heart because of our limitations or ever stop seeking that fullness of love and communion which God holds out before us.” (Pope Francis, Amoris Laetitia #325).
Ash Wednesday begins our Lenten Season. At Mass you will be receiving the Ash by Father or Deacon when he signs you with the sign of the Cross and say to you: “Turn away from sin and be faithul to the Gospel!” or “Remember you were dust and dust you shall return.” Beginning of life, building of family and relationships that goes with life! Family foundation of the World! One way we can do this—is to strengthen our families. This pandemic has helped us to look to our families. We spend time and do activities with our children, studies, sports, movies, meals together, praying together and just being there for each other. As families, we have gone through a lot—pandemics, diseases, abuses, drugs, crimes and now War. We have survived as individual families, as community families, as religious families, and as world families. This togetherness has given us strength.
Let us build our families to be even stronger!
Jesus, I trust in You! Amen!
On June 18, 1987, Patrick Constantino was ordained as the first Deacon of Filipino ancestry for the Roman Catholic Church in Hawai‘i. For twenty-two years, he served as Administrator at Holy Rosary Church in Pā‘ia, St. Rita Church in Ha‘ikū and St. Gabriel Church in Ke‘anae. Constantino is presently assigned to St. Joseph Church in Makawao.
Prior to his ordination, Constantino was in government—first appointed in 1966 as Assistant Sergeant of Arms by the Speaker of the House Elmer F. Cravalho. When Cravalho became Maui’s first Mayor, Constantino became his Executive Assistant—the first of Filipino ancestry. Later, Constantino became the first County Treasurer of Filipino ancestry and the first County Grants Administrator and Risk Manager of Filipino ancestry.