Gn 4:1-15,25; Ps 50:1,8,16bc,17,20,21; Mk 8:11-13
Liturgy, that is not one with all of life, is not pleasing to the LORD God Almighty. It is never enough for us to recite his statues or profess his covenant with our mouth; we must delight in his discipline and never speak against our siblings much less hate them because of their worship. In his union with us, the LORD God does not act according to our prejudice or ignore our offenses. He hears the cries of those whose blood we shed and demands of us repentance and change of life. Indeed, the growing desire for and actual unity of the Western and Eastern churches is a bright sign of the power of right worship, orthodoxy, to enable our unconditional love for and openness of heart to every son and daughter of Adam and Eve.
The union between Adam and Eve brought two sons into the world. Such a loving union produces brothers who eventually bring deadly disunity into the world. Cain was a farmer and Abel a shepherd. Both were inspired to bring an offering to the LORD from the fruits of their labor. Cain offered the LORD some of his produce. Abel brought before the LORD one of his best firstlings from his flock. Already there is a clear difference between the two sacrifices. Cain’s sacrifice was adequate for the ritual, but Abel’s was beyond the external requirements necessary for worship. This distinction was the cause of a rift between the first brothers. From Abel’s heart came a living sacrifice of praise symbolized by his offering “the best” firstling he could find. Cain’s heart was crestfallen and resentful. The LORD challenged the elder brother with this question, “Why are you so resentful and crestfallen?” He goes on to warn Cain that sin is a demon lurking at the door of his heart; because of his wounded pride this demon’s urge is toward conquest and domination of Cain’s heart. When we are weak, the demon takes full advantage of the situation, but we can be the masters of our own destiny. Cain does not heed the wisdom from on high; rather, he attacks and kills his younger brother. The LORD God does not ignore the blood of Abel that cries out from the earth that Cain used to farm. Rather, the LORD God makes Cain a restless wanderer on the earth. He is rootless and disconnected from the earth that once gave him life. His heartless sacrifice and his cruel fratricide condemn him to wander aimlessly encountering those who would take his life, but the LORD puts a mark on Cain so that he must not be killed like he killed Abel. God’s love for Abel and his self-sacrificing worship is remembered in the sign put on the head of Cain. This wanderer gives silent witness to the love of God that triumphs over even the destructive hate between brothers.
Jesus Christ is the light of the world and his life is full of signs. His preaching and healing ministry is sign enough for anyone who approaches him with even the most miniscule faith. The Pharisees had no faith in our Lord Jesus. They had fear, challenges, and opposition, but no faith. It seems that they wanted the Lord Jesus to perform a sign, to do a miracle, that no one could doubt. They demanded an irrefutable sign; they wanted the Lord to perform a sign from heaven that finally proved his identity to everyone, even them. This is not unfamiliar complaining; our ancestors in the wilderness complained that the Lord had taken them away from the delightful food in Egypt in order to let them die of hunger and thirst. All the Lord Jesus could do in the face of such a complaint is to sigh from the depth of his spirit. At first his anger is wordless, then he refuses to be tested like the Father was tested in the Exodus: “Amen, I say to you no sign will be given this generation.” Then He left them to stew in their own juices. He got into the boat again; this time and went the other side of the lake. He came to summon all people to light and love; without faith this kind of relation ship is impossible. And for people without faith, such light and love is not possible.