In today’s first reading, the brothers Cain and Abel have just brought an offering to the Lord. Abel brought his best lamb to offer to God in sacrifice. Cain brought some of the first fruits of the harvest, but pointedly not the best. “The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not.” (Gen 4:5-6a)
Several commentaries offer that what follows in Genesis 4:6-7 is perhaps the most challenging verse facing translators in the Book of Genesis, or perhaps all of the Hebrew Scriptures. “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.”
If this week’s readings contain any one warning about the human condition it is that too often we are concerned about honor. In the gospel account it is connected with desiring seats of honor. There is nothing wrong with honor or being honored; what is disordered is when a person seeks the bestowal of honor as a right, something earned, or demanded. Then honor is just the surface symptom of Pride – a sin as deadly as they come and as old as time. As Proverb 16 tells us, “Pride goes before disaster, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Pr 16:18). Continue reading
I think anyone who is involved in pastoral ministry or ministries of service – inside or outside the home – knows that there days that are less rewarding than others – and days when you wondered why you got out of bed. There are those days when we tried to bring to bear some of the talents, gifts and abilities that we were given to be instruments of God’s compassion – and the days is unrewarding or even filled with some form of suffering, persecution or disappointment. If we are truly wise, then we will recognize that our role is to live as Christ lived. Nothing more, nothing less. Continue reading
Franciscans take three vows: poverty, chastity, and obedience. It is sometimes said that Obedience is the one the creeps up on you. When one spends a lifetime working to become an individuated person with a good sense of self and one’s worth, setting aside “self will” does not come naturally. Francis understood the balance of self will, the will of the people one serves, the will of the community to which one professes, and, above all, the will of God we seek to fulfill. Here in Admonition 2 he addresses the dark side of self will – something capable of transforming the knowledge of good into the knowledge of evil through self exaltation.
Admonition 2: The Evil of Self Will
1 The Lord said to Adam: Eat of every tree; you may not eat, however, of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
2 He was able to eat of every tree of paradise, because he did not sin as long as he did not go against obedience. 3 For that person eats of the tree of the knowledge of good who makes his will his own and, in this way, exalts himself over the good things the Lord says and does in him. 4 And so, through the suggestion of the devil and the transgression of the command, it became the apple of the knowledge of evil. 5 Therefore it is fitting that he suffer punishment.