“Belong, Believe, Become”, Lenten Recollection by Father Dave Concepcion

Through the Evangelization Ministry, headed by Bobby Novenario
April 12, 2014, Santuario de San Antonio Parish
Notes by Letty Jacinto-Lopez

“Lent is not about rituals, it is about relationships”

During Lent, we observe traditional ceremonies that were handed down through generations and therefore considered familiar and regarded with great reverence. These rites, in fact, formed a large part of our childhood memories and shaped our spiritual foundation. However, if we give too much emphasis
on rites, we stand the risk of not being able to bring Jesus into our own lives, in a more personal level.

With candor and humor, Father Dave shared some of his insights on the following:

“The company you keep does have an impact and influence on your choices.”

Weren’t we able to harness the courage to pursue our dreams and ambitions because behind us stood family and friends who believed in us?

As an example, Father Dave showed a picture of three children, all survivors of Typhoon Yolanda. In the midst of wanton destruction, they managed to laugh heartily. Why? Because, they had each other.

Mother Teresa affirmed this, “Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for or forgotten by everybody, is a much greater hunger and poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.”

We cannot reach Heaven alone. We belong to a community and a community is not just about being together but doing life together. Christ’s invitation to us? “Become a part of me.” And this He made possible, every day. We become one with Him through the sacrament of the holy Eucharist.

The Ten Commandments was not a series of do’s and don’ts but a big YES, to love and life.

Father Dave said that if we believe in God, we must also believe in evil, “God was responsible for everything good. It was man who created evil.” He shared the story of a veteran exorcist who was driving a dark spirit away by praying the Our Father. The spirit replied, “I know that prayer, too.” We must remember that Satan was one of the more intelligent angels, before his fall. Satan believed in God the Father but not God the Son.

In Romans 10:19, “If you believe in your heart that Jesus was raised from the dead, you will be saved.” The question however, remains: Do you make it easier for others to believe in God? Our faith doesn’t make things easy, it makes things possible and destines us to do great things.

Being true in our belief requires a lot of sacrifices and a lot of hard work. Mother Angelica, founder of EWTN, remarked, “Holiness is not for wimps and the cross is not negotiable, Sweetheart. It’s a requirement.”

In another anecdote, Father Dave was urged to pray for blue skies despite the rain beating down ferociously. Suddenly, he heard a voice, “Remove the marquee and I’ll stop the rain.” Father Dave raised his brows, unsure of what he heard. Again, the voice echoed the same instruction. Finally, running through the puddles, he had the marquee removed. Two other priests, soaking in the rain, raised their brows at him. But lo, when the marquee came down, the dark clouds dispersed and out came the sun. “God is not logical,” exclaimed Father Dave. He will continue to amaze us. “Help me in my unbelief God and let my faith be bigger than my fears.”

Everytime we celebrate a birthday, we become new. It is an opportunity to focus on God and what He continues to do in our lives. Our quest is not on acquiring material things but in changing our disposition so that we become closer to reaching our ultimate goal: Heaven. This would be our ultimate becoming. Like the rich young man who asked Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Take courage, be brave and follow Jesus.

“Doing Ordinary Things with Extraordinary Love”

We are called to imitate the saints in our spiritual journey. Sometimes, it only requires simple little acts every day but done with a lot of love and patience. Father Dave gave the following suggestions:

Begin the day by saying a little prayer to thank God for being alive (a gift), for a restful sleep and a chance for a new beginning. Pray to God, “Empty me of me so I can be filled with You.”

1. DON’T Gossip. Don’t pre-judge without verifying the facts but even if the story is true, you still have no right to talk about others, or derive pleasure at the expense of others and worse, with the intention to harm or smear his name.

2. FINISH your food, out of a sense of gratitude because God has been generous to you and a sense of respect for those who have none. Don’t stuff your plate and then leave leftovers. Regarding vegetables, don’t lie to your children about vegetables being delicious and scrumptious. They’re not. Instead, endorse them for their nutritional values.

3. MAKE time for others. Give a bit of your heart than a piece of your mind. Practice the 7-8-9 hours allocation, that is, devote seven (7) hours for sleeping, 8 hours for working and 9 hours for others. If retired, you have 17 hours at your disposal.

4. In buying, CHOOSE the more humble purchase as a reminder that there’s nothing in this world that you can bring to Heaven. Don’t be possessed by your possessions. Your self worth is not based on what you can buy or afford. Empty yourself of your ego so that you have time for others.

Remember that death is the great equalizer. No matter how rich, famous, beautiful or outstanding you are, your grave will be the same size as any common man.

5. MEET the poor in the flesh. Look, talk and listen to them. Visit the orphanage, old homes, the slums or public hospitals. Sometimes, the poor may be the ones right in your own home – the aging and ailing elders who are forsaken by family, neglected, abandoned or treated without dignity.

6. STOP judging others. Some people find faults as if there’s a reward for it.

7. BEFRIEND or do not lock horns with those who disagree with you or has an opposite opinion. If it’s about your passion, swim with the current, but if it’s your principle at stake, stand your ground, like a rock.

People use rudeness to push their weight around. Rudeness or being impolite is a poor imitation of strength while Gentleness is strength under control.

If you encounter people who bad-mouths, are harsh and cruel, react by blessing them. This requires a lot of discipline. Don’t match your opponent’s unsavory behavior. Forgive and God will bless you more.

8. MAKE a commitment. It is the glue to bond your goals. If you give your word, honor it and stay loyal.

9. PRAY. MAKE it a habit to ask The Lord for guidance, for discernment. Keep that relationship of love. Whatever you do if you are not doing it for God, you’re doing it for yourself.

10. BE Happy. The joy of The Lord is your strength. It’s a gift. Keeping a positive and humble attitude makes it easier to find satisfaction and fulfillment. Believe much more in God’s love than in your fears.

Father Dave ended with a challenge: What part of the recollection struck you most and why? What do you wish to achieve? Decide and act on it. Now.