Monday, February 14, 2011

Memorial of Saint Cyril, monk, and Saint Methodius, bishop

(Genesis 4:1-15.25; Mark 8:11-13)

What is wrong with Cain’s offering that God does not look favorably upon it? Genesis does not specify. We might have heard as children that Cain presented rotten vegetables, but that is not likely. More in line with the biblical tradition is that nothing is wrong with the sacrifice per se, but with the presenter. Through the prophets the Lord frequently tells the people that their sacrifices are wanting because they are not made sincerely. A sacrifice should symbolize the person’s dedication of self to God, but in the case of Cain he is not ready to give himself over. It is like the unfaithful husband who tries to appease his wife with a diamond.

But how does God know that Cain is up to no good? After all, the reading does not tell us that he has done anything wrong until he murders Abel. Another axiom of Scripture, however, is that God does not judge by appearances; He knows the hearts of people. For this reason He can say to Cain, “…sin is lurking at your door.” Of course, Cain is free not to sin. God even tells him that he may overcome any malicious desire. Obviously, though, that is not Cain’s will.

The passage also intimates God’s everlasting mercy. Even without repenting of his sin but only for bewailing his punishment, God is ready to act on Cain’s behalf. Of what exactly God’s “mark on Cain” consists the Scripture does not say. However, we can be assured, precisely becomes it comes from the Almighty, that it does protect Cain, like a Red Cross flag, from enemy attack.