Some of you may have noticed that we are approaching what could possibly be one of the most somber holiday seasons we can remember. While nothing will top the sadness of the Christmas of 1941 when the Japanese invaded the Philippines, the Christmas of 2013 will not be as festive as past Christmases we have known.

Already many companies and social organizations have announced they are canceling their Christmas parties and will contribute instead the money they would have spent to a Yolanda relief fund. Well, the good thing about this is, without the distracting glitter and frivolity we are likely to discover for ourselves the real meaning of Christmas. By sacrificing some of our momentary fun and games to help victims of a devastating typhoon manage three meals a day and put a roof over their heads, this is exactly how our Savior wants us to celebrate His birth.

Indeed, even before the typhoon struck, Pope Francis had been urging Catholics to be more mindful of our neighbors’ sufferings and do something to help them. In the words of the Pope:

“The most serious of the evils that afflict the world these days are youth unemployment and the loneliness of the old. The old need care and companionship; the young need work and hope but have neither one nor the other, and the problem is they don’t even look for them any more.

“They have been crushed by the present. You tell me: can you live crushed under the weight of the present? Without a memory of the past and without the desire to look ahead to the future by building something, a future, a family? Can you go on like this? This, to me, is the most urgent problem that the Church is facing.”

Now we have a Pope who preaches that the obligation of anyone who calls himself Christian to ease the pain and help carry the burden of those in need. He was reminded by an Italian atheist journalist that the basic teaching of Jesus is, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Do you think, the atheist asked, that this has happened?

A candid answer from the Pope: “Unfortunately, no. Selfishness has increased and love towards others declined.”

Such a sad state of affairs we all have to acknowledge. On a very positive note, we Filipinos have shown to the world, and the world has shown us in return, that selflessness is more than possible too.

The aftermath of typhoon Yolanda has shown such outpouring of help, of concern from every strata of society, from every corner of the world. If only we can be this selfless in normal times, we can start to feel the message of Jesus Christ in all of our lives.

We have made a good start this Christmas season. May we be more mindful of the welfare of our neighbors more loving of our neighbors as we love ourselves! Perhaps some good may yet come from this horrible storm if somehow it got us to ingrain this virtue of charity and practice it all the days of our lives.

My family and I wish to greet you and all your loved ones the blessings of the season. Maligayang Pasko at Manigong Bagong Taon!

(Oscar M. Lopez Chairman emeritus, Lopez Group)