Ordinary Time Readings: Sunday, July 13

Reading: Genesis 4:1-16 and Matthew 18:21-33

We’ve exited Eden. The journey of humanity begins with a trajectory of choices and temptations: to return to God in relational dependence for life and sheltering love or to live autonomously making our own way in the world. The narrative of Cain and Abel evocatively showcases the challenges humanity faces. It can be a difficult Scripture passage to understand. The nuances of the Hebrew language punctuates the attitudes in which the brothers’ offerings to God were made rather than the kind of sacrifice offered.  They both offered to God but Abel’s was regarded while Cain’s was not. Abel’s was from the firstborn, of their fat portions suggesting the best Abel had to offer and with the intent to please God.   Cain’s offering, on the other hand implied an offering out of duty. The significance was the intent of the heart. The discourse between God and Cain invites us to explore our intentions, emotions, temptations toward sin and the course of actions toward God and others. We live in a web of relationships. Some connections are broken, twisted, deformed or deforming due to sin; while others  seem to be life-giving and beautiful. As you spend time reflecting on God’s word, ask for the grace to live your life as a reconciler with an increasing ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor.5:18).

  1. Notice what challenges you or what resonates with you as you read Genesis 4:1-16. What do you observe about Cain, Abel, or God?  Are there any admonitions, invitations or encouragements for you from the story?
  2. Knowing you are in the presence of God who loves you completely and seeks relational intimacy with you without condemnation; explore your own heart. Is there any sense of a prevailing attitude, emotion (like anger against God or another) that may breed sinful actions if left unattended? God comes to Cain with questions about his heart, state of emotions, relationship with his brother and offers him words of wisdom. What might God be asking you?
  3. Reconciliation, either with God or another, includes a series of concrete choices and actions toward wholeness: self-awareness, confession, making amends with another. Notice Cain’s choices and course of action (Gen. 4:16 – he settled in the land of Nod, which means wandering). Is there a need to make amends with someone? With God? Talk to God about these things.
  4. What does Jesus’ instruction in Matt.18:21-33 say to you? If you sense your own need, consider how you, as a disciple of Christ, might creatively to rule over sin. (Gen.4:7) If you desire help with this aspect of discipleship, ask a spiritual friend for help; talk a pastor or spiritual director; ask the prayer team to pray with you after a Sunday service.