Genesis 4:1-15, 25

The man had intercourse with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain. “I have acquired a man with the help of the Lord,” she said. She gave birth to a second child, Abel, the brother of Cain. Now Abel became a shepherd and kept flocks, while Cain tilled the soil. Time passed and Cain brought some of the produce of the soil as an offering for the lord, while Abel for his part brought the first-born of his flock and some of their fat as well. The Lord looked with favour on Abel and his offering. But he did not look with favour on Cain and his offering, and Cain was very angry and downcast. The Lord asked Cain, “Why are you angry and downcast? If you are well disposed, ought you not to lift up your head? But if you are ill disposed, is not sin at the door like a crouching beast hungering for you, which you must master?” Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let us go out”; and while they were in the open country, Cain set on his brother Abel and killed him.

The Lord asked Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I do not know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s guardian?” “What have you done?” the Lord asked. “Listen to the sound of your brother’s blood, crying out to me from the ground. Now be accursed and driven from the ground that has opened its mount to receive your brother’s blood at your hands. When you till the ground it shall no longer yield you any of its produce. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer over the earth.” Then Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. See! Today you drive me from this ground. I must hide from you, and be a fugitive and a wanderer over the earth. Why, whoever comes across me will kill me!” “Very well, then,” the Lord replied, “if anyone kills Cain, sevenfold vengeance shall be taken from him.” So the Lord put a mark on Cain, to prevent whoever might come across him from striking him down.

Adam had intercourse with his wife, and she gave birth to a son whom she named Seth, “because God has granted me other offspring,” she said, “in place of Abel, since Cain has killed him.”

Last week, we saw how when Adam and Eve betrayed the Lord, the Lord asked them a question, and waited for their response. God hoped that Adam and Eve would respond by admitting that they were in the wrong, and would ask for forgiveness, but instead, they denied responsibility. Today, God also asks Cain a question, hoping that Cain would respond by admitting that he did wrong, and would ask for forgiveness, but like his father, Cain denied responsibility, and he reaped the consequences of it.

But how did Cain come to commit such an atrocity in the first place? We look at the first paragraph of today’s first reading. We see that Cain and Abel each brought to the Lord a portion of their produce. Cain chose an ordinary portion, but Abel, he brought the best part of his produce. When we read about the fat, it refers to the best part.

There is a part in the book of Leviticus that says, “All the fat belongs to the Lord.” I just happen to remember it because I read it during my retreat last year and it struck me. But if you think of sizzling hot bak kwa (barbequed pork), you can understand why the fat is the best part. :)

When the Lord looked with favour on Abel, and not on Cain, Cain got angry. To be more precise, he got envious of his brother Abel, because Abel had what Cain had not. The more Cain’s thoughts dwelt on it, the more envious he became, and the more envious he became, the more depressed and angry he became.

At this point, the Lord spoke to Cain, asking him why he was angry and downcast. And the Lord tells him (and us) that his anger and depression comes from an ill disposition that Cain harbours against his brother. And the Lord warns that Cain allowing himself to have this ill disposition is putting himself in an occasion for sin.

This warning is still very applicable to us today. Whenever we harbour an ill disposition against our brother or sister, we are putting ourselves into temptation. The more we dwell on it, the angrier and more depressed we will feel, so that when we are given the opportunity, we will be more likely to take the chance and do harm to our brother or sister.

So when you are feeling angry or depressed and do not know why, maybe the Lord is asking you about your current disposition. If you are well disposed, you would not be feeling this way. You are feeling this way because you are ill disposed. And because of that, you are putting yourself in the path of temptation. Do something about it before it’s too late.

If Cain had done something about his disposition, if he had stop being envious of his brother, then perhaps he would not have committed such an atrocity. If only Cain had listened to the Lord, and mastered his desire to commit a sin. Feelings of anger and depression are not beyond our control, with the Lord’s help. They are there as warnings for us to examine our disposition, and to make appropriate changes to our thoughts, so that we do not add fuel to a fire that might burn itself beyond our control.

Master your feelings, so that you may steer clear of the danger of sin.

Dear Lord, help us to acknowledge the feelings that you have given us as human beings. Help us to claim them as our own instead of burying them and letting them fester within us. Help us to master those feelings and pay attention to what they are telling us about ourselves, so that we might do our best to steer clear of the dangers of sin. Amen.

Give Thanks to the Lord for: Self-control.

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