Filipinos are always eager in their anticipation for Christmas.  As early as September, Christmas carols are played on the radio and in the malls.  A Christmas countdown ends the evening news. Christmas items are on display and Christmas sales have been scheduled. But this year, though the anticipation is still present, our excitement seem to have diminished, in large part I think, because of the hard, uneasy times we now experience.  I myself, feel no excitement over the music, the decors and the mall attractions. 

One day, however, passing in front of a busy market, I glimpsed some colorful lanterns (“parols”), the simple bamboo and paper variety that has been the signature of simple, warm family Christmases for ages. I began to smile and I felt a bit of the Christmas spirit enter my heart – in October! It was that simple material that sparked joy in me.

Today the gospel touches us very deeply through a very simple truth, one we think we already know by heart.  Jesus was asked which was the most important of all the commandments. And the Jews were experts in the law; all sorts of laws govern every area of their lives.  But Jesus, in answering the question did not point to any famous teaching.  He offered no new precept.  He did not introduce a creative thought. Instead, he referred his interlocutor to the simplicity of a very common law they already knew – the law of love.
We think we already know too well what Jesus was talking about.  It is but right to love God and adore him with our whole hearts.  It is apropriate to love our neighbor.  But Jesus invites us today to pay attention to these words again, to reflect and not rush.  When we are ready to do this, it will not fail to touch us.  We will really be touched by the spirit of love.

Christian life is all about love.  The center of our lives is none other than the love of God. For most Christians today, it is easy to speak about the love of God.  But in reality, is this truly our top concern?  The many financial crises we experience through the years remind us that for many people money has become their god, a god that fails and disappoints us many times.  When we say that we must love God above all, we mean trusting, believing, clinging to God at all moments of life.  It means we believe not in our selves or in our strength but in the good that God himself has promised us, the good things prepared for all his children.

Love of God has a natural corollary. Jesus does not preach a mere vertical relationship with God, a private religion, insulated from other human beings. Love must draw us to others – family and friends, but also to neighbors and even total strangers who need our help.  Why do other people matter?  Because the other person is made in the “image of God.” To love God is to reverence his image wherever you find it.  And it is not easy to do this once you actually put it into practice. 

Today Jesus offers us a simple truth, a simple reminder – love.  If we truly desire to grow in our lives, we must be energized by love.  May we learn to love God and serve him.  May our love of God push us to active involvement in the life of the man and woman who need our help.