In the first reading, the story of Cain and Abel, scholars don’t know why Yahweh was pleased with Abel’s meat offering and not Cain’s fruit of the earth. If this scripture were written today, would it have been the opposite? Would you, Yahweh, have scorned the animal offering? We are learning that the way we (mostly) raise and process our cattle in this country harms humans and the earth. We use a great deal of energy, a great amount of corn, growth hormones and antibiotics (because of illnesses the cattle get from unnatural conditions in feedlots). To maximize profits, our industrial meatpacking plants, all around us here in Nebraska, slaughter and process 4,000 to 6,000 cattle a day. The speed of the disassembly line leads to frequent injury for our immigrant brothers and sisters who labor there. (I’m doing research about the experiences of these workers, so they are in my mind and heart often.)
In the gospel, the Pharisees seek a sign from heaven. They see what Jesus is doing, but they don’t understand what God is revealing. Mark tells us that Jesus “sighed from the depth of his spirit.” What are we blind to today, dear God? What causes you to sigh this way today?
You must sigh to see us at war in Afghanistan and Iraq and on our streets, the Genesis story of resentment, and violence, of brother killing brother repeated in our world. I am struck that you protect Cain from being killed in vengeance.
Cain is left to a life of wandering… We are all wanderers, seeking your way for us in a world where sin and evil are real. I’m reminded of the words of my 16-year old son, Luke. (We talked to him in Brazil via skype on the computer yesterday.) “I’m still trying to figure out the purpose of this exchange” he said. (He’s half-way through his 10-month Rotary international exchange experience living with families and going to school in Nova Friburgo.) I hear his longing to figure out the purpose not only of his exchange, but of his life. He seeks signs….
I pray for Luke and for all of us. Lord, Help us believe in you, seek you, trust you, listen attentively to you in our lives. Help us not to seek or depend on external signs, but to be open to grace that helps us be attentive to your stirrings in our heart as we reflect on the experiences of our lives. You try to teach us that vengeance is not the way to healing. I beg you to help us face what we are doing in our own country and in our own state. We have the opportunity now to choose to abolish the death penalty in our state. We also have the opportunity to reach out to immigrant workers in respect and appreciation for their dignity and their work. Help our leaders and our president today, on President’s Day in the U.S., to seek and contribute to reconciliation and development for all peoples of the earth. Help us believe, seek, trust, listen and act for your will to be done on earth.
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