So I left home this morning, and now I am.. home. Still unpacking a bit; getting ready to play catch-up starting tomorrow. Spent the day of travel reflecting mostly on the first reading--Cain and Abel. (What an odd reading for St. Valentine's Day, which our Mother Paula always called "the feast-day of charity"!)
The way the liturgy matched the Genesis reading with Psalm 50 really sheds light on the question that many people have about just why God didn't accept Cain's sacrifice:
“Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you, for your burnt offerings are before me always.... Why do you recite my statutes, and profess my covenant with your mouth, though you hate discipline and cast my words behind you?”
Bottom line: Cain didn't really offer a sacrifice, because the ritual was saying something his heart didn't mean. God's words to the crestfallen Cain sound like a good teacher's encouragement: "If you do well, you can hold your head high." Unfortunately, the student didn't seem to take any responsibility for himself. (He never even admits to the killing!) I found myself understanding Cain a little more by focusing on those words, though. It hints that Cain was looking for a sense of self from exterior things, from what people (or even God) thought about him, how he "measured up." As long as that was how Cain functioned, Abel never stood a chance.