Rest In Peace James Daligcon Mariano
Deacon Patrick Constantino | Photos courtesy Office on Aging Staff
Messages from God comes through different forms but always through his Son our Lord Jesus Christ! Signs of Thanksgiving through Love!
I was honored to be asked to say the Opening Prayer for James Mariano, a Program Specialist on Aging, Maui County Office on Aging-Aging and Disability Resource Center, on October 21, 2022 at the J. W. Cameron Center. James Daligcon Mariano died suddenly on September 2, 2022.
James was born and raised in Kekaha, Kaua‘i. He moved to Maui to work at the Aging & ADRC office. His parents are from Piddig, Ilocos Norte, Philippines. He has family on Maui—Mr. and Mrs. Henry Yanos is one of them. His service was live streamed to his Mom and Dad, family members and friends who live on Kaua‘i and who couldn’t make it to Maui for the celebration of his life.
I never met James in person but when Deacon Kenneth Bissen nominated me for the 53rd Annual Maui County Outstanding Older Americans Recognition, James called me in May 2022, we talked and he asked me some questions and information. That’s how we met.
God’s love comes to us from anyone or anything or anytime He chooses to give to us in every and any way. At James’ memorial service I felt God’s love through Jesus Christ. I never met James in person but met him in the Spirit of God! We could feel the presence of God in the love his staff, friends and family shared! We pray for the soul of James until we meet in person in God’s house. James, may you rest in peace!
The Gospel today (Luke 19:1–10) centers around a man named Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector in Jericho. Last week, we talked about why the Jewish community so hated tax collectors. They worked for the oppressive Roman government and they often collected excessively high taxes. They gave the Roman government its required amount, then kept the excess for themselves. As we learned last week, tax collectors were excommunicated from the synagogue. They couldn’t participate in the religious and social support of their community.
Our Bible passage says Zacchaeus was wealthy, so it’s likely he was profiting off the exploitation and oppression of his neighbors. I’d guess he earned the title ‘Least Popular Guy in Jericho.’ I think that explains why Zacchaeus didn’t want Jesus to see him. These Bible verses tell us Zacchaeus ran ahead of the crowd. It’s reasonable to assume he could have gotten close enough to talk to Jesus or touch him. Instead, he climbed up a sycamore-fig tree. He wanted to see Jesus but I don’t think he wanted Jesus to see him.
There are a lot of people who feel they are unacceptable to God. That’s the first insight we get from today’s story. Maybe you feel that way. You come to church searching for something but you’re afraid to commit to anything. You’re afraid to let anyone get to know you. You’re afraid someone will discover you’re not a ‘real’ Christian. And there are plenty of people outside these church walls who feel that way. They think they have gone far from God. The real tragedy is someone in their life may have told them that. One of the most destructive lies we can believe about ourselves is “I am not worthy of God’s love.”
In the early days of the AIDS crisis, Rev. Ted Karpf was serving as an Episcopal priest in the Diocese of Texas. One evening a man showed up at his church door. The man’s face bore the characteristic sores of AIDS-related cancer. He had a question for Rev. Ted: “Will you allow me to come to your church and die here?” He had already visited six other churches that night. All had turned him away. Rev. Ted hesitated. Like many people, he was afraid. Not much was known about the disease at this stage and the fear was driving a lot of hateful behavior. AIDS patients were losing their jobs, getting kicked out of their churches, facing harassment and death threats. But then Rev. Ted remembered Jesus’ love for lepers, for the sick, for all those who were unacceptable in their society. And he simply said: “My church is open to you. I will stand by you.” He later discovered this man planned to commit suicide in the church, to die in a peaceful and beautiful place. But the man was so moved by Rev. Ted’s acceptance he changed his mind. Not everybody in his church was ready to accept this man. Attendance dropped drastically. But when the dust settled, twenty-one members of the church remained and committed themselves to caring for this man until his death. He died knowing he was accepted by a community and surrounded by the love of God.
And that brings me to the second insight we get from today’s Bible passage: one of the greatest truths Jesus came to teach us is “God loves you anyway.” No matter what you’ve done, no matter how unacceptable you feel, God loves you anyway. See how Jesus treated people who were considered nobodies or outsiders? He’s showing us a picture of what God would do if God were to walk into our lives. Our hearts may condemn us. Others may reject us. God loves us anyway. And Zacchaeus was about to discover that in the most surprising way. I think that’s how Zacchaeus spent the rest of his life, trying to be the person Jesus saw in him.
The love of God changes lives. It always has. It always will. A person exposed to grace—the unconditional, unearned, undeserved love of God—will be changed by it. So when Zacchaeus is confronted by grace in the form of Jesus Christ, we shouldn’t be surprised by the transformation in his life.
That brings me to the final insight we get from today’s Gospel. And for this, I’m just going to steal Jesus’ very words “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Please memorize these words. Inscribe them in your brain, in your heart, in all the dark places where you believe you are unacceptable to God. “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
To seek and to save. We need both these verbs to understand God’s Love. Please memorize this and I’ll say it again, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost!” Ti anak ti tao immay tapno biruken ken isalakan dagiti napukaw. That’s what He said. That’s what He meant. That’s what he did. And that’s what He wants His followers to do also!
A few years ago, the folks at St. Gregory Episcopal Church in San Francisco decided they would follow Jesus’ lead and go look for people who wanted to meet Jesus but would never walk in the church doors. The church’s Rector and the Director of Ministry went to the busy San Francisco transit stations on Good Friday. They carried with them little bowls of ashes. And as commuters rushed past them, they offered to make the sign of the cross on their foreheads and pray for them. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Almost as crazy as inviting yourself to the home of the Least Popular Guy in Jericho. And yet people stopped and received the sign of the cross in ashes. They asked for and received prayer. They talked about their faith or their faith struggles or their rejection of God. But they stopped to talk. They stopped to listen. It turns out, a lot of people who never go inside a church were still looking for God. And so many people who were touched by their ministry said, “Never before have we had the church come to us,” or “We couldn’t make it to church but you brought God to us,” or “You brought God to us.”
That was Jesus’ mission. Please don’t believe the lie you are unacceptable to God. One of the greatest truths Jesus came to teach us is, “God loves you anyway (Ti dios ay-ayatennatayo).” No matter what your feelings say. No matter what others say. No matter whether you deserve it or not, God loves you anyway.
That’s the whole reason God became flesh in the form of Jesus Christ! “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” If you are looking for Jesus—and even if you’re not—I guarantee you, Jesus is looking for you. And if you have received the love of God through Jesus Christ, then someone is waiting for you, looking for you to share the love and hope of Jesus and change their life too!
Share the love and keep the faith! Keep the faith and share the love! Jesus, I trust in You! Amen!
In thanksgiving, thank you Jesus for putting James in our Life and making him a new friend! Amen! Jesus, I trust in You! Amen!
On July 1, 2022, Patrick Constantino retired as a Deacon for the Roman Catholic Church in Hawai‘i, after serving for thirty-five years and becoming on June 18, 1987, 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. His last assignment before retiring was at 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.
Constantino is married to his lovely wife Corazon for sixty-one years.