Reflections

Monday of 5th Week of the Year, February 15, 2021

JESUS IS THE ONLY SIGN
Introduction
Sin, even murder, shows its ugly head right after the loss of paradise. Or does the story express the conflict between two cultures, the sedentary life based on the land (Cain) and the nomadic life of the shepherd Abel? In Nigeria today, it has become a living crisis – farmers/herders. It looks as if the issue would fast-tract the dismemberment of the entity called Nigeria. However, it was not as if Abel’s cows grazed on Cain’s farm, yet for his punishment Cain becomes himself a fugitive nomad.
In the gospel, the Pharisees ask Jesus for a sign that his authority came from heaven. But we too look often for signs and reassurances. Are the words of Jesus not assurance enough? Does not faith consist in trusting him? Our sign is the life and the message of Jesus.
 
Opening Prayer
Lord God,
forgive us that in our weak faith,
we ask sometimes for signs and wonders.
We know that you are our Father,
but it is not always easy for us
to recognize your loving presence.
Give us eyes of faith to see the sign
that you are with us in Jesus and his message.
We say so reluctantly, for it is painful:
purify our trust in you and in Jesus,
that we may become more mature Christians,
who love you through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen!
 
1 Reading: Genesis 4:1-15, 25
The man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have produced a man with the help of the LORD.” Next she bore his brother Abel. Abel became a keeper of flocks, and Cain a tiller of the soil. In the course of time Cain brought an offering to the LORD from the fruit of the soil, while Abel, for his part, brought one of the best firstlings of his flock. The LORD looked with favour on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not. Cain greatly resented this and was crestfallen. So the LORD said to Cain: “Why are you so resentful and crestfallen. If you do well, you can hold up your head; but if not, sin is a demon lurking at the door: his urge is toward you, yet you can be his master.” Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let us go out in the field.” When they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. Then the LORD asked Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” He answered, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” The LORD then said: “What have you done! Listen: your brother’s blood cries out to me from the soil! Therefore you shall be banned from the soil that opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. If you till the soil, it shall no longer give you its produce. You shall become a restless wanderer on the earth.” Cain said to the LORD: “My punishment is too great to bear. Since you have now banished me from the soil, and I must avoid your presence and become a restless wanderer on the earth, anyone may kill me at sight.” “Not so!” the LORD said to him. “If anyone kills Cain, Cain shall be avenged sevenfold.” So the LORD put a mark on Cain, lest anyone should kill him at sight. Adam again had relations with his wife, and she gave birth to a son whom she called Seth. “God has granted me more offspring in place of Abel,” she said, “because Cain slew him.”
 
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 50:1 and 8, 16bc-17, 20-21
R. (14a) Offer to God a sacrifice of praise.
 
God the LORD has spoken and summoned the earth,
from the rising of the sun to its setting.
“Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you,
for your burnt offerings are before me always.” R.
 
“Why do you recite my statutes,
and profess my covenant with your mouth
Though you hate discipline
and cast my words behind you?” R.
 
“You sit speaking against your brother;
against your mother’s son you spread rumours.
When you do these things, shall I be deaf to it?
Or do you think that I am like yourself?
I will correct you by drawing them up before your eyes.” R.
 
Alleluia: John 14:6
Alleluia, alleluia.
I am the way and the truth and the life, says the Lord;
no one comes to the Father except through me.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
 
Gospel: Mark 8:11-13
The Pharisees came forward and began to argue with Jesus, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him. He sighed from the depth of his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Amen, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.” Then he left them, got into the boat again, and went off to the other shore.
 
Commentary
Most of the evildoers in the first eleven chapters of Genesis are, at best, literary ancestors of the various peoples with whom Israel had difficulties centuries later. For example, Cain is related to the Canaanites, whom the Israelites drove out of the land of promise.
Once sin is introduced with Adam and Eve, the “saga of sin” continues through chapter 11. Cain’s sin is one of fratricide, killing his brother Abel in a frenzy of jealousy (envy). Abel is described as a flock herder; Cain, a farmer.
The sad saga of evil, presented candidly in the Bible, takes var¬ious twists and turns. Yet Jesus states with utmost clarity that evil springs from the heart. In the case of Cain it was premeditated, and so it is in countless cases presented in the daily newspaper.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus states that no sign will be given. Why? Because Jesus himself is the sign—in his life, his teaching, and his works. To know Jesus is to know that no further sign is needed. Cain’s personality was devoid of God’s presence. He lived on jealousy, anger, and disdain. Jesus clearly teaches that such a spirit has no place among his followers. This is the sign that Jesus gives. We need nothing more.
 
Intercessions:
For people who have to face trials, that they may grow as persons and Christians through this testing of their faith, we pray:
For those who doubt their faith or who hesitate to commit themselves the way their faith demands, that the Lord may give them insight and strength, we pray:
For all of us, that the Lord may increase our faith and make it spontaneous and rich, without our needing special signs, we pray:
 
Prayer over the Gifts
God, our Father,
when contradicted and rejected,
your Son Jesus did not waver.
He accepted life with its sufferings
to bring us forgiveness and joy.
Do not allow us to be tossed about
by the waves of our doubts and fears,
but accept in this bread and wine
our will to be faithful to you and each other
in trials as well as in joys.
We ask this through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen!
 
Prayer after Communion
Lord our God, loving Father,
we know that unseen but ever-present,
you stand by our side in days of trial.
Help us also not to abandon
our brothers and sisters in need
but to strengthen their trust in you,
that together we may go forward
toward the joy that you promise us
through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen!
 
Blessing
The sign given us by Jesus is Jesus himself, God is showing himself in Jesus, in his inspiring word of life, in the tenderness of his healing, in his acceptance of all people, including outcasts and the poor. May God open your eyes and bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!

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