Philippine police arrested several people in a movie house who did not rise for the singing of the national anthem. It is a law in the country to show respect whenever and wherever the anthem is played. Since this is a precept even little kids know and observe, many people expressed bafflement at how adults could ignore this basic regulation. Some remarked that neither ignorance or indifference caused this offense; it was an utter lack of patriotism or love for the country.

It benefits us when we know, remember and defer to the laws that assure proper behavior and relationships in society. But love, more than knowledge, makes people sensitive, caring and committed to the things, persons and values they cherish. Rules, though important, need an environment that will foster people’s loyalty and commitment.

We admire then, the great wisdom of the Lord Jesus Christ in bringing together the divine commandments which people must observe and the spirit of love in which every commandment must be followed and obeyed. Jesus affirmed that commandments are valid in our relationship with God. But in summarizing the commandments under the one heading of love, he also emphasized the attitude of the heart in which to appreciate the divine laws.

In our experience, if something is merely commanded, then it is distasteful and difficult. If however, we love something or someone, we will pleasantly do anything without counting the cost.

If we truly love God, we will try to love him more and more. St. Francis de Sales tells us that in loving God, we need only move forward; there is no looking back. I think this is what the Lord means when he challenged us to love God with our whole soul, mind and strength. It must be a movement that steadily progresses, even if it is not perfect. There is no room for deceleration, laziness and procrastination.

And if we truly love our neighbor, we will not only wish them well. St. Francis invites us to also do the good which is within our power for the welfare of others. Love of neighbor is not lip-service but action-packed, for that is how we normally love ourselves. Genuine love of others vitiates against indifference to the needy and superficiality in relationships.

This week, let us continue to beg for the grace to grow in our love for God and the people he has put in our lives.