Indian Catholic News

Protected by the mark of Cain

There are lessons to be learnt from the Cain and Abel story in the context of drug-related killings in the Philippines.

 
Drug-related killings in the Philippines have increased rapidly since the government declared an all-out war against narcotics in 2016. (Photo by Vincent Go)
By Brother Jess Matias
Manila: 

The story of Cain and Abel is not your usual tale, nor can it be an enticing subject for a children’s Bible lesson.

It is all about the first murder.

But it is a story with a remarkable twist, a lesson so important to learn in our Philippine context of unjust killings as a consequence of the Rodrigo Duterte administration’s "drug war."

This fratricide drama unfolds in a revelation of a lesson with a simplistic, one-sided moral dimension: "Cain hated, and so Cain killed. We should never be like Cain."

In our normative of absolute moral truths, we have thus condemned Cain as the "bad example" we would never dare become. For us, Cain is the epitome of a moral impossibility: "I will never be like Cain!" we say with boastful conviction.

As for Abel. He is the victim of the "sinners," the prey of the "bad examples," and perhaps a mirror of ourselves suffering at the hands of evil.

Stories, however, have to be seen from their many facets, their multiple perspectives. No single perspective contains the truth, and only when seen together, like the many glistening sides of a dazzling diamond, will the truth be whole and complete.

Thus, we must view the fate of Cain going beyond the mere loss of self-control over mere jealousy, of perfection over imperfections, of honesty over dishonesty. In fact, there is much to discern from what we already know about these two unfortunate brothers.

The story unfolds with the offering of Cain from the fruits of his farming, and then the offering of Abel from the fruits of his shepherding. God exhibits clearly contrasting attitudes towards the two offerings: Was there anything wrong with Cain’s offering? Or are there any indications that differentiated it from Abel’s, that would earn much displeasure for the former?

Scriptures do not tell us why, and so it may be incorrect to conclude that Cain was seen as less than Abel’s exemplar, and much more incorrect to say that Cain was deliberately dishonest.

Cain may well perhaps be Abel’s equal in terms of ability and moral understanding. He may be just as good a farmer as Abel is a shepherd and may have similar genuine motives in trying to please God.

Why God would choose Abel over Cain will remain a mystery forever in the divine mind. But we may realize that evil intentions and evil desires do not simply emanate from intrinsic evil; it may even come from intrinsic goodness.

Evil actions result from a lack of control over such inordinate intentions and desires, coupled with the self-rationalization that evil actions will be intended to serve the "greater good."

We thus have to be aware that we have a "Cain" in all of us, no matter how "good" we see ourselves to be. We will have to confront circumstances that we feel we do not deserve, and under such conditions, the concepts of good and evil become blurred.

The evil that we do is our frail attempt to seek correction for an unfortunate injustice, a "good" that we seek to regain even if it means hurting another.

Evil may be seen as good, but the key to self-control is to be constantly reminded that evil will always be evil. We must be forewarned that evil will not go unpunished.

Do we steal to rebel against our undeserved poverty? Are we adulterers because of undeserved loneliness? Do we lie and cheat because of undeserved inequalities? Are we addicts or killers because of undeserved angst and despair?

Cain reminds us that there is no sin great enough that is beyond our ability to commit.

God shows us, however, that there is no sin great enough that is beyond his mercy and compassion.

Ever proud, we seek to punish those who are "not as good as we are." We seem to think that we can appropriate his justice for ourselves.

His boundless mercy on the other hand signifies that behind our illusory disguise of "immaculate benevolence," we are all "thieves, adulterers, liars, addicts and killers;" and God is very much aware of that.

We are not as strong as we think we are.

Therefore, we cannot perfectly dispense our own justice. It sorely pales in comparison to the perfect justice of the Spirit. Those who have fallen miserably in the eyes of our social constructs, still deserve to live, for who among us has not fallen?

Our Lord continues to challenge us: He who has not sinned, may cast the first stone.

God protects the fallen with the mark of Cain. He who hurts what God protects, will have to answer to the most High.

Brother Jess is a professed brother of the Secular Franciscan Order. He serves as minister of the St. Pio of Pietrelcina Fraternity at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Mandaluyong City, coordinator of the Padre Pio Prayer Groups of the Capuchins in the Philippines, and prison counselor and catechist for the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.

Source: UCAN

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