Monday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

Lectionary: 335


So the LORD said to Cain:
"Why are you so resentful and crestfallen.
If you do well, you can hold up your head;
but if not, sin is a demon lurking at the door:
his urge is toward you, yet you can be his master."


We have seen the “demon lurking at the door” in the serpent who spoke to Eve. Now, as the Lord speaks to Cain, many years after the expulsion from Eden, God urges the crestfallen older brother to “master” the urge.

The young man has become obsessed with resentment toward his brother Abel, who is entirely innocent of blame. The younger boy offers sheep in sacrifice and God accepts the sacrifice. Does he even know of Cain’s frustration? We can suppose by his willingness to go with Cain into the field that he has no reason to fear.

A New Yorker article told of a boy who, watching his grandfather sleep, began to think about shooting him. He had no reason to do so; they were a reasonably happy family; they enjoyed hunting together. But he also had nothing else to think about. His parents had been divorced a while. He had recently broke up with a girlfriend, something normal kids do all the time. He didn’t like to think about that. As the evening wore into night and toward the morning the restless teen thought more and more about shooting the sleeper. If he at any point thought, “This is ridiculous; I don’t want to kill my grandfather.” he brushed that thought aside in favor of the thrill that murder might afford. Finally he got up, took a pistol from the gun case and shot the 60 year old man in the head.

He told the arresting officer it was the most exciting thing he’d ever done in his life. His bewildered father still visits the prison where his son will live out his youth.

Cain seems to be possessed of the same evil fantasy. He has surrendered his soul to the intoxication of a vicious thought. God warns him of the danger; he insists, “You can master this demon.” but Cain refuses to consider it.

The story of Cain and Abel reminds us of the intentionality of sin.  Although the individual may think he has no control, that he is powerless, he is no less responsible for what he does.

One of the strengths of Alcoholics Anonymous is its understanding of this dilemma. Although alcoholism is a disease the sick one is entirely responsible for his disease, his behavior, its consequences and his recovery.

One of the weaknesses of Alcoholics Anonymous has been the success of this formula. Some are so persuaded that they are sick they refuse to pursue recovery.

Cain would have mastered the impulse to kill his brother had he turned his “life and will over to the care of God.” Adam and Eve would have walked away from the Forbidden Tree with its insinuating serpent had they clung to their love of God.

Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings. I Peter 5:8

Our faith requires us to master our thoughts. We are not permitted to indulge in resentment, regret, lust, envy or avarice. In thought, word and deed, at every moment of every day, we are subject to Christ.  

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.