Reading 1: Hosea 14:2-10; Gospel; Mark 12:28-34
God is one and there is no other
Today’s Gospel appears to be a simple one, the first lesson of catechism. Yet, it is not easy to claim that we believe only in one God, and much less that we love him above all else, leave alone loving your neighbour as yourself! In these two commandments, we have the two foundational pillars of our religion.
- Polytheism is a constant temptation for human beings. It is evident from the history of the Hebrews themselves. Throughout history they were regularly straying towards other gods. And yet monotheism is the pillar on which Judaism, and later Christianity and Islam stand. Philosophical Hinduism is basically monism, claiming that the Absolute is one (non-dualism, a-dvaita), and plurality is only illusion (maya). And yet in practice there are any number of gods in it. Even godless religions like Buddhism have developed their own god-like figures. In personal lives too there are many ‘gods’ or absolutes before whom we bend our knees in adoration! They are often strong enough to set themselves up as rivals to the one living God!
- The second commandment, considered equal to the first, is actually a prolongation of the first. The biggest rival to the one God is the Ego, out of whom our other gods are born! It sets itself up as equal to God himself, as it happened with the fallen angels. The ego thinks that it is more important than others, because it sets itself up as the centre around which everyone and everything should gravitate. So, bringing down the ego to the level of others – not loving yourself more than others, but only as much as the others – is the best antidote to the temptation of the Ego to become the centre of the universe, to be a super star. Basically, if we have one God only, we will also love the others as ourselves.