Tuesday, October 06, 2015

A Thought for Tuesday 6 October 2015

“After the crime, God intervenes to avenge the one killed. Before God, who asks him about the fate of Abel, Cain, instead of showing remorse and apologizing, arrogantly eludes the question: "I do not know; am I my brother's keeper?" (Gen 4:9). "I do not know": Cain tries to cover up his crime with a lie. This was and still is the case, when all kinds of ideologies try to justify and disguise the most atrocious crimes against human beings.  "Am I my brother's keeper?": Cain does not wish to think about his brother and refuses to accept the responsibility which every person has towards others. We cannot but think of today's tendency for people to refuse to accept responsibility for their brothers and sisters.  Symptoms of this trend include the lack of solidarity towards society's weakest members - such as the elderly, the infirm, immigrants, children - and the indifference frequently found in relations between the world's peoples even when basic values such as survival, freedom and peace are involved.” 

9. “But God cannot leave the crime unpunished: from the ground on which it has been spilt, the blood of the one murdered demands that God should render justice (cf. Gen 37:26; Is 26:21; Ez 24:7-8). From this text the Church has taken the name of the "sins which cry to God for justice", and, first among them, she has included willful murder.  For the Jewish people, as for many peoples of antiquity, blood is the source of life.  Indeed "the blood is the life" (Dt 12:23), and life, especially human life, belongs only to God: for this reason whoever attacks human life, in some way attacks God himself.”  Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), Pope John Paul II, 25 March 1995

The observations of John Paul II in this encyclical are ultimately directed toward the reality and scourge of abortion.  Like with many encyclicals, however, (at least the ones I’ve actually read all the way through!), the popes never seem to go straight to the issue being addressed.  Rather they build a case for what they will ultimately write for (or against).  There is some lengthy and very involved reading in these encyclicals, but each of them speaks of our need to not merely address the issue at hand; we must build a biblical case based upon the Scriptures, sound reasoning, the traditional teachings of the Church, and experiences we share (which, by the way, is very Wesleyan).

What limits us, however, is a strictly literal interpretation of the text to which John Paul II refers, in this case Genesis.  We read that Cain literally murdered Abel, so we reason we do not share Cain’s sin of actually spilling the blood of another.  Yet we cannot slide past Cain’s refusal to take responsibility not only for the literal murder of his brother, but his more acute denial of being his “brother’s keeper”.

Even in that context we are able to remove ourselves from the story because we will look after our biological siblings and, though to a lesser degree, those of our friends whom we “like”, but to care for those of our “human family” or even our church family?  Not so much.  Not if we don’t “like” them.  Not if there is nothing to be personally gained.  We have our own lives, our own agendas, and we seek after our own pleasures.  We feel somehow secure in our “saved-ness” while ignoring what is actually written in the Scripture, quite possibly about us: “In the last days perilous times will come.  For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power …” 2 Timothy 3:1-5

Nowhere in the Scripture is it written or even inferred: “except for those who call themselves saved”.

Are we the keepers of our brothers and sisters?  Absolutely.  Jesus affirms the Law in which it is written: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” as surely as we “shall” not murder and “shall” not commit adultery and “shall” not steal and “shall” not covet.  If we consider such a responsibility as caring for someone to be only a burden, a “have to” proposition, we are not looking at it correctly.  We are missing what John Paul II observed when he wrote, “Whoever attacks human life in some way attacks God Himself”.  If that is true, then it must be equally true that Whoever loves human life (neighbor, stranger, alien, friend, etc.,) in some way loves God Himself. 

Actually it is the only way to truly and fully love God, when we joyfully and thankfully assume the role as “my brother’s keeper”.



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