Cain and Abel
The story of Cain and Abel is rightly used over and over again to help understand our most basic of difficulties which is covetousness a/k/a concupiscence. People are misusing this story for the promotion of the ownership and use of assault weapons. This is a grievous use of sacred Scripture.
You know the story, having seen Abel’s offering gaining the favor of God and his less so Cain is in crisis. He was greatly resentful and crestfallen. The Lord, knowing the underlying problem talks with Cain.
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.” (Gn 4:6-7)
This language is the language of self-mastery. Taming the passions is a necessity for humans. It is natural for us to have intense desire and yet if not mastered its movement becomes disordered. So disordered that the sensitive appetite begins to operate contrary to human reason. For Cain, all three aspects of concupiscence are present.
For all that is in the world, sensual lust, enticement for the eyes, and a pretentious life, is not from the Father but is from the world. (1 Jn 2:16).
I imagine we restrict our thoughts here to the accused, Nikolas Cruz, in the most recent case. This is our mistake because we do not read further in the story. Cain is confronted by the Lord and asked about his brother. The enormity of the evil is revealed by God: The LORD then said:”What have you done! Listen: your brother’s blood cries out to me from the soil! (Gn 4:10).
And the Lord goes further…
Cain said to the LORD:”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.” “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. (Gen 4:15)
This is the first law of God between men. Here the Lord is prohibiting violence. Bear in mind the complexity of the back story. There are many people and families now. Cain’s error invokes the pride of life error in the others. Sin begets sin. It is not only that revenge is the Lord’s. It is the same warning given to Cain is now given to the remaining families: master your passions. Allow me to demonstrate a variant: “So the LORD said to the other families:”Why are you so resentful and crestfallen? Sin is a demon lurking at the door: his urge is toward you, yet you can be his master.”
During the time of Noah I am sure you recall the flood story. Hear the words of the Lord concerning humankind.
God added:”This is the sign that I am giving for all ages to come, of the covenant between me and you and every living creature with you: I set my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign of the covenant between me and the earth… and again… As the bow appears in the clouds, I will see it and recall the everlasting covenant that I have established between God and all living beings–all mortal creatures that are on earth.”
I set my bow – a bow is an instrument of power / war. A bow, bow and arrow, are used to defeat an enemy. Yet in this covenant the Lord has declared we are not enemy but friend. We are wounded friend and unreliable friend but never the less friends of God as He has decided.
I set my bow in the clouds so you will know we are friends not enemies.
Peter and Jesus
The sword interaction with the Lord is a recapitulation of the Flood and the setting of the bow in the clouds (clouds = eternal things).
He said to them, * “But now one who has a money bag should take it, and likewise a sack, and one who does not have a sword should sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you that this scripture must be fulfilled in me, namely, ‘He was counted among the wicked’; and indeed what is written about me is coming to fulfillment.” Then they said, “Lord, look, there are two swords here.” But he replied, “It is enough!” (Lk 22:36-38).
Then a short while later.
Jesus said to him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” His disciples realized what was about to happen, and they asked, “Lord, shall we strike with a sword?” And one of them struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said in reply, “Stop, no more of this!” Then he touched the servant’s ear and healed him. (Lk 22:48-51).
And so Jesus refactors Noah’s covenant. And we are given the same perspective that the Lord has taken. Take your sword power and place it in the sky among the clouds. Put away your weapons.
The Way of the Cross
The passion of Jesus Christ moves us more definitively into the faithful life with their newly mastered passions.
Jesus accepts his cross and in his journey he encounters all those who understand Enough! Jesus had those who understood the Lord’s command to master their passions.
Mary, his Mother, accompanies him along his way. Veronica focused on her Lord and wipes the sweat from his face. Simon of Cyrene learns to carry his cross. The women of Jerusalem cry for Jesus and for all the peoples. The repentant thief confesses. Mary gives and is given as protection and gift to the Church and to John. The guards confess. Joseph and Nicodemus assist Mary with the laying Jesus in the tomb and initial preparations. Peter comes to terms with his betrayal.
Each in their own way came to understand: Enough! All of them placed their sword in the sky.
Jesus is betrayed by Judas and arrested, Jesus is condemned by the Sanhedrin, Jesus is judged by Pilate; Jesus is scourged and crucified by the Soldiers. Judas in despair takes his own life.
These have not listened to the urging of the Lord.
For them war and revenge are not enough, they want more! It is a continuous state of rebellion and fear. Fear permeates this type of life.
Isn’t it tragic!
The medical community has not forcefully enough spoken up. There is no direct or strong correlation between mental illness and violence and in this case gun violence.
So we return to Cain and the community. The Lord is clear that there is a parallel concupiscence in all members of the community.
Lust of the Flesh, lust of the eye and pride of life are the three categories. These need to be mastered with the help of the Holy Spirit.
It is violence itself to buy more guns, get larger bullets, assemble quicker delivery and train to shoot anyone who threatens you. The reason is…. everyone becomes the enemy. This is a friendless life.
Be set free from Fear and Revenge.
Place your weapon in the sky.
Peace be with you,