Unlike the other characters we have discussed,
Cain is apparently the UN-chosen one,
the one whose offering God did not accept.
His resentment unfortunately drove him
to commit the very first murder in human history,
and the victim was his very own brother Abel.
What is remarkable is that
although God strongly disapproved
of what Cain had done,
once again the Lord showed His mercy,
giving Cain a mark
not as punishment, but as protection.
Even those like Cain
who have strayed far
are included in God’s love–
and in Christ’s redemption,
if only they choose to accept it.
The Easter message is precisely
that especially thanks to the Lord Jesus,
no one lies beyond God’s embrace–
but they must make the choice.
This is exactly what God tries to tell Cain
right before he commits his crime.
“You MAY master it.”
John Steinbeck’s classic novel, East of Eden,
about twin brothers Calen and Aron,
who are clear parallels of Cain and Abel,
focuses on this line.
According to the author, the Hebrew verb is “temshel.”
And temshel indicates freedom and choice.
Whatever it is we are going through,
we still always have a choice.
But our choices are swayed and shaped
by many voices: our own emotions and needs,
but also evil and good spirits.
In making choices, we need to exercise discernment.
For St. Ignatius of Loyola, we need to learn
how to discern precisely because it is so easy to be misled.
For him, self-knowledge is key to discernment.
To discern is to pray to the Holy Spirit for guidance,
to always resort to our higher nature,
to seek our better angels.
Our choices define us,
so we must try not to make choices that diminish us,
that make us less than what we are meant to be.
This song called “Better Angels”
best expresses this responsibility of ours–
to discern what is right and what is God’s Will
despite the ambiguities of life.