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Newsmakers

David’s conceptions

PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez - The Philippine Star
Davidâs conceptions
Peace and quiet over the Sea of Galilee.
Photo by Joanne Rae Ramirez

(Conclusion)

Fr. David “Dave” Tampus Concepcion keeps many people riveted to his words, a combination of spiritual doctrine and personal wisdom, during his homilies, retreats and pilgrimages. He doesn’t give a “sermon,” the way we Filipinos construe “sermons” as preachy and angry. He gives spiritual guideposts on how to journey through life in words that are relatable but laser-like in their target. He shares these “conceptions” when he says Mass in his parish, the Maria Goretti parish in Paco, Manila, at the Greenbelt Chapel and in Megamall.

After all, Father Dave, a licensed mechanical engineer, has seen it all — poverty, a near-death experience after having been stabbed five times, professional success, and, love. The latter, he told us during a talk beside the Sea of Galilee, he unequivocally gave up when he decided to enter the priesthood.

I recently was part of a pilgrimage led by Father Dave, who is president of Catholic Travel Inc., to the Holy Land. Like many in our group, I found myself taking down notes of his conceptions and reflections, which still resonate in my mind.

*  *  *

On one of the first days of our pilgrimage, our Israeli tour guide Arlette, a Christian,  brought us to Mt. Precipice, which has a breathtaking view of Nazareth. According to Scripture, it was from a cliff on this steep mountain that Jesus leapt after people from the synagogue, angered by his teachings, wanted to hurl him down the mountain.

Preaching from the precipice 2,000 years after Christ, Father Dave said:  “Someone made a stand in this precipice.” Jesus.

Renewing their wedding vows at Cana: (From left) ‘Brides’ Minda Gonzales, Dr. Armi Santos, Tata Uy, Dr. Thelma Crisostomo, Dee Dimalanta, Amy de Guzman, Glo Flores, Suan Yuyitung, Tonette Castillo, Andie Uy, Yoly Cheng, Prescy Austero, Carie Villena, Nancy Limuaco, Jane Tan and Alet Fernandez.

1. If you have no stand, you also have no enemies. But if you always stay in the middle of the road, you can be hit by both sides.  “Make choice, and you will  know who will hit you.”

2. “It is okay to be alone if you are walking in the right direction.”

3. “Character plus competence equals integrity.”

*  *  *

For the married people in our group, even those who did not have their spouses with them, Cana was stirring. Not far from Nazareth, Cana is where Jesus performed his first miracle, as related in John 2. After the wine ran out at a wedding, Jesus followed his mother’s bidding and transformed the water  in six huge stone jars into wine.

The church where the couples renewed their wedding vows  was built on a site that reportedly was the village synagogue during the time of Christ, and where the wedding is believed to have taken place.

During his homily after he presided over the renewal of vows of the 17 married couples with us, Father Dave said:

1. “Love is a decision, not just an emotion.”

2. Referring to the wine that ran out during the wedding in Cana, he said,  “Sometimes, we forget to ask the Lord to refill us with grace.”

3. His advice to husbands: Make sure your wives are “affirmed, admired and assured” of your love and devotion. Men will surely get a an “A” if they do this!

4. And the most precious gift a wife could give her husband? “Respect.”

*  *  *

At Bethesda, near the Church of St. Anne (on the site where Jesus’ grandparents Joachim and Anne lived and where the Virgin Mary is believed to have been born), another miracle is commemorated: the healing of a paralytic who had been sick for 38 years. There are healing pools in Bethesda, but no one stopped to lift the infirm man to the pools for relief. According to Father Dave, “Beth” means “house” and Bethesda means “House of Charity” or “House of Mercy.”

1. “Every time Jesus was approached by the sick, he would ask, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ So, tell Jesus what you want him to do for you.”

2. “Only those who want to be healed will be healed.”

3. “The only sin that can’t be forgiven is the sin that we refuse to ask forgiveness for.”

Father Dave with pilgrims on a boat at the Sea of Galilee.

4. There are five stages to complete contrition, according to Father Dave: Say “I’m sorry.’; “I was wrong.”; “I promise not to do it again.”; “What do you want me to do about it?” (restitution); and, “Please forgive me.”

5. Mercy and justice always meet.

6. Grace is when we receive something we do not deserve.

7. Mercy is the freedom from the punishment we deserve.

Indeed, God has been merciful to us sinners, for the bountiful graces we receive despite our infirmities.

*  *  *

When our pilgrimage was drawing to a close, I asked Father Dave what was the most fulfilling thing about leading a group  of 49 people on a pilgrimage in a foreign land that had a packed itinerary, and he said, “The fact that we started on this journey as pilgrims, and returned home as family.”

Quoting Peter Gomes, he said, “The goal of the pilgrimage of life is to be one with the Creator. Our Christian faith is not the triumph of individual over evil or even the solitary accomplishment of good but rather a community, a fellowship of explicitly shared hopes and experiences, frustrations and failures.”

Indeed, it would take an entire book to list all of David’s conceptions, and by sharing even just some of them, I hope more guideposts are now lining your life’s own journey in this holiest of all Christian seasons. *

(You may e-mail me at [email protected] Follow me on Instagram @joanneraeramirez.)

DAVID CONCEPCION

PILGRIMAGE

SEA OF GALILEE

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