In the path of the cross, the journey back to my baptism, I see Cain walking away into the dark lands. He is walking through the wilderness, but he is not on pilgrimage. He is cursed to wander, a fugitive with no home, no family, no tribe. Eventually, he will build a city. This city is built on vengeance, on blame, on bloodshed. The soil of the city will carry the curse of Cain.
To look at Cain is the see the threat of Abel. The Lord does not look upon Cain’s sacrifice. Cain blames Abel for this lack of approval even though it has nothing to do with Abel. Someone else is blamed for Cain’s problem, so he kills him. His curse echoes across the ages.
The other person is the reason I am not happy, successful, joyful, approved by God. Abel is that someone else: the liberals, the conservatives, the young, the old, the foreigners, the others. If we can organize, shout louder, ague them into a corner, kill them, then the world will turn rightly.
Cain’s grandson Lamech proclaims, If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold, then Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold” (Ge 4:24). I see Cain walking away into the dark, and yet, I am compelled to follow him. To enter into his pattern. To leave the path of my baptism, my death, and demand another’s death instead. Blame another person. Blame another group.
The Lenten journey is the story of Cain and Abel in reverse. It is the realization that I stand guilty and have fallen short. It is not Abel that must die, but me, Cain. As I come face to face with my culpability, Jesus suddenly steps forward and offers the perfect and acceptable sacrifice that I could not offer. In so doing, he restores the love between me and the Father as well as the love between me and Abel. Jesus removes the curse of wandering, of no home, of cities built on vengeance. He invites me into a city built on love, on death overcome by life.
Now I walk back toward the place of may baptism, the reenactment of Jesus’s death and life. I am letting go of the offenses to all the Abel’s of this world. I am rediscovering the possibility of loving my enemy even as God loved his enemies in Jesus Christ.