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Monday – Sixth Week – OT1
Readings: Gen 4:1-15, 25; Mk 8:11-13.
1/ Reading I: NAB Genesis 4:1 The man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have produced a man with the help of the LORD.” 2 Next, she bore his brother Abel. Abel became a keeper of flocks, and Cain a tiller of the soil. 3 In the course of time Cain brought an offering to the LORD from the fruit of the soil, 4 while Abel, for his part, brought one of the best firstlings of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not. Cain greatly resented this and was crestfallen. 6 So the LORD said to Cain: “Why are you so resentful and crestfallen? 7 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.” 8 Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let us go out in the field.” When they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. 9 Then the LORD asked Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” He answered, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 The LORD then said: “What have you done! Listen: your brother’s blood cries out to me from the soil! 11 Therefore you shall be banned from the soil that opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 If you till the soil, it shall no longer give you, its produce. You shall become a restless wanderer on the earth.” 13 Cain said to the LORD: “My punishment is too great to bear. 14 Since you have now banished me from the soil, and I must avoid your presence and become a restless wanderer on the earth, anyone may kill me at sight.” 15 “Not so!” the LORD said to him. “If anyone kills Cain, Cain shall be avenged sevenfold.” So, the LORD put a mark on Cain, lest anyone should kill him at sight. 25 Adam again had relations with his wife, and she gave birth to a son whom she called Seth. “God has granted me more offspring in place of Abel,” she said, “because Cain slew him.”
2/ Gospel: NAB Mark 8:11 The Pharisees came forward and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him. 12 He sighed from the depth of his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Amen, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.” 13 Then he left them, got into the boat again, and went off to the other shore.
I. THEME: People need to know themselves in relation to God.
God owes people nothing; in opposition, people owed God everything. When people put their trust in God, they add nothing into His glory; but their faith in God helps them to reach the eternal life. Similarly, when people worship God by participating in Mass, praying and offering sacrifices, people add nothing to God; but these acts help people to receive God’s graces.
Today readings show people’s misunderstanding in their relationship with God. In the first reading, when Cain offered his offerings to God and received not His attention, he became angry with God and jealous with Abel, his brother, whose offerings were received by God. The result happened is he killed his brother. In the Gospel, the scribes challenged Jesus to perform miracles so they could believe he is God. Jesus sighed because of their stubbornness. He refused to let them see no miracle.
1/ Reading I: Due to jealousy and anger, Cain killed Abel, his brother.
1.1/ The murder’s reason: Cain was jealous with Abel because God received his brother’s offerings, not his. The report didn’t say any reason for God’s refusal of Cain’s offerings; we can only guess by relying on the tradition. When people offer their sacrifice to God, they must have love for God, not reluctantly offer them according to the law. In reality, Abel isn’t the cause of his brother’s anger; Cain was angry with God and this anger led him to hate his brother. Vietnamese have a saying, “Because of anger with fish, people hit a board.” Since Cain couldn’t do anything to God, he killed his young brother to compensate it. This murder also certifies people’s nature of sinning after the first fall in the Garden, the ancestral sin.
God explained for Cain why he shouldn’t do that, “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.” Sin always looks for people, but they must be ready to conquer it by mastering themselves and having their intention to do good deeds. Anger and jealousy shall lead people to more serious sins.
1.2/ Cain’s murder and God’s punishment: When people want to commit a sin, they try to find a deserted place so no one can see their wicked act. Cain was the same, he told his brother, Abel, “Let us go out in the field.” When they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother and killed Abel.
But Cain forgot the One who can clearly see all of his thoughts and acts. The Lord God appeared and asked Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” He answered, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” Similar to the first fall, people’s first reaction is to deny what they had done. Cain denied his murder while Adam and Eve attributed their sins to other parties.
The Lord then said, “What have you done! Listen: your brother’s blood cries out to me from the soil! Therefore, you shall be banned from the soil that opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. If you till the soil, it shall no longer give you, its produce. You shall become a restless wanderer on the earth.” To the Jews, life originates from blood and God (Lev 17:11-14). Since God is the author of life (Gen 2:7), the innocent’s blood shall be heard by God. The earth has a closed relationship with human beings: they came from the earth and shall return to it; the earth shall give people’s food and people’s sins are the reason why the earth gives its thorns (J).
1.3/ God’s compassion for Cain: People must receive the consequences of their act. Cain thinks about the results of his murder and said to God, “My punishment is too great to bear. Since you have now banished me from the soil, and I must avoid your presence and become a restless wanderer on the earth, anyone may kill me at sight.” The first punishment which Cain must endure is to hide from God and people. “Banished from the soil” is to let him in a deserted place, the dwelling place of the devil and sinners. The murder is always in a state of hiding from God, people and himself. The tradition also believes in God’s presence and protection with good people; without His presence, people’s lives are always in danger.
(1) God still has His mercy for Cain: The law demands, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” Cain also knew this law when he said to God, “Anyone may kill me at sight!” But the Lord said, “Not so! If anyone kills Cain, Cain shall be avenged sevenfold.” So, the LORD put a mark on Cain, lest anyone should kill him at sight. This special sign on his forehead indicates God’s protection.
(2) God has compassion for Adam’s family: Adam again had relations with his wife, and she gave birth to a son whom she called Seth. Eve then said, “God has granted me more offspring in place of Abel, because Cain slew him.”
2/ Gospel: The true faith
2.1/ Faith that is based on miracles: Each nation on earth has its own traits. St. Paul correctly said about one of the Jews’ traits: “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles” (1 Cor 1:22-23).
The Jewish tradition already had a model for their Messiah: He is powerful, able to do miracles. He is the Lord of the Jews only; he will help them to expel foreigners, and they shall dominate the world. With this model in their mind, the Pharisees came to Jesus and challenged him to perform some miracles so they might believe in him.
2.2/ Faith that is based on the true knowledge of God: Why did Jesus refuse to perform miracles for them. There are at least three reasons.
(1) He did many miracles already. In the Gospel according to Mark, there were so many miracles done by Jesus. These Pharisees must witness or hear about these miracles.
(2) Miracle is only needed to light up one’s faith from beginning; once one already had faith, miracle is no longer needed. When Jesus healed the sick, he reminded them what the prophet Isaiah foretold about the Messiah, was now fulfilled in him. His purpose is to help them to believe in him. Moreover, the faith, which is based on miracles isn’t a firm faith, because people will lose their faith when they no longer see miracles. They need to acquire a firm understanding about God and His providence for the world, not a model of God according to their imagination.
(3) Lastly, Jesus didn’t want people to control God. People have a tendency to think that when they need something, God has a duty to do miracle to grant them that thing, no matter if it is good or bad!
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– We need to be humble in our relationship with God. All of our worshipping acts are for our own benefits, not adding anything for God’s glory.
– When we ask God for anything and don’t get it, we must re-examine to see if the thing we ask is according to God’s will. We should never have an angry or revenged attitude by apostasy or causing harms for people who are favored by the Lord.