The Way of CainFr. Barnabas Powell
Did you know that 70% of “millenials” support XXXXX! I leave out the subject because it doesn’t matter. Our society continues to struggle with the unique problems of our affluence.
It is only the societies so freed from the immediate struggle to survive that deal with issues ranging from rights of convenience to issues of morality and accepted norms of society. The very fact that our country is asking the questions and struggling with the issues we are wrestling with now is evidence we live in an affluent land freed from fundamental issues of survival and now moving on to “quality of life” issues. By the way, this isn’t necessarily good or bad as much as it is instructive and diagnostic of our true selves and our real loves.
My own question is “how long can we tinker with timeless wisdom before we are no longer that affluent society?” Is there a destructive influence on society as we continually ignore wisdom in favor of so-called “freedom?” I guess we’re going to find out.
In our Epistle Lesson today, St. Jude writes a letter to the churches of his day (1st Century Christianity) about what he calls “the way of Cain.” (see Jude 1:11-25 – read the whole passage, dear ones. It is quite instructive)
You remember the story of Cain, don’t you. Cain was the son of Adam and Eve and he had a brother named Abel. Cain and Abel lived on the other side of the Garden of Eden and were born after Adam and Eve had been sent out of the Garden by God to protect them from eating of the Tree of Life in their fallen state. So Cain and Abel grew up hearing stories about the Garden but never lived there. They only knew their parents longed to restore their estranged relationship with God, their Creator.
Abel was a sheep header and Cain was a farmer. To make a long story short, Cain committed the first murder in history when he killed his brother Abel because of envy and anger.
St. Jude instructs us by teaching “But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; they said to you, ‘In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.’ It is these who set up divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God; wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And convince some, who doubt; save some, by snatching them out of the fire; on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.” Jude 1:17-22
We live in an age of envy and anger. We live in an age of scoffers and those who insist that their own wisdom is the measure of all wisdom. We live in an age like most of the ages of humanity where the desire to have what “my brother” possesses drives others to insist on their own way so that they can have what their brother has. We live in an age where it seems dividing people into this “group” or that “group” is a popular way to get what they want. We live in that kind of age.
As believers we are called to live “above” that common spirit of the age by actually focusing on shoring up our spiritual maturity; by a robust prayer life; and by centering our highest priority on loving God.
These wise prescriptions for living above the slavery of our age allows us to not become entangled with foolish arguments and fruitless social experiments all based on selfish envy. By always placing our best energies on spiritual maturity we are given eyes to see both the potential pitfalls and the blessings of choices based on true freedom and not the false freedom of selfish and temporary desires.
This is the greatest gift of Great Lent. That season of the Church Year where we are called to forget the mundane exercises of fruitless debates and focus on turning our hearts once again to the time of preparation for the celebration of Pascha, the season of the Resurrection. You and I need this season, dear ones. We need to set as our top priority the development of our souls and the maturity of our spiritual life. We need it.
So, today, as we approach Forgiveness Sunday and the start of Great Lent, let us escape this age of envy and anger, this way of Cain, and embark on the more fruitful path of spiritual renewal by prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, so that we will be given the eyes to see all the dangers of selfish choices and the blessings of spiritual maturity. Let us keep the Great Fast on purpose and show our age, by our choices, the more excellent Way.