This story doesn’t explain why Abel’s offering pleased God and Cain’s didn’t; that remains a mystery to us. What is less puzzling is what happens next. Jealous, embarrassed, and resentful, Cain brews up such anger against his brother that he murders him. Interesting. Maybe the root of the problem is Cain’s shame and rejection – so painfully uncomfortable, so hard to bear. Instead of facing the cause in his own life that he could work on and change, he turns his wretchedness outwards: “It’s your fault!”
It’s always tempting, if something has happened to make us feel inadequate, to begin to really dislike the person who has done well and whom everyone admires, while our own work is ignored or passed over or dismissed. Angry shame and jealousy gather into a focus as comparisons reinforce our sense of rejection.
Can you think of a time when someone else came first in a competition you badly wanted to win and thought you deserved to? How did you feel? What were your feelings about the person who won?
God said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” Cain – angry, guilty, and frightened, answered God: “I don’t know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” As we look at the modern world – our clothes made in sweatshops to keep the prices down, poor people pushed off their homelands to make way for farms where big corporations will grow our food – we maybe hear God asking us, “But what about your brother, your sister?” Feeling guilty and overwhelmed, we come back with the same answer: “I don’t know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” What changes could we make in our lives to take better care of one another? In our global village, how far are we responsible for the way our commodities are produced, and to what extent is that the responsibility of the producers?
Can you think of any instances in your own life where you felt you had let someone down but it was too late to go back and put it right? What did you do about that? Is there anything you would like to change about it still?
When we call you “Father”, we are saying we belong to one another as family. Reaching out for your love and mercy, we remember that you expect us to begin the costly work of compassion and reconciliation in our own lives. Breathe into our hearts, Spirit of God, your loving-kindness and humility. Speak quietly to us about anything we need to put right. Give us the necessary courage to face our own shortcomings, without blaming anybody else, or passing on the responsibility. For we ask it in Jesus’ name; Amen.