Cain and Abel are each called to offer a sacrifice unto the Lord, and each do so according to their call. Abel’s sacrifice is clearly received by the Lord, whilst Cain’s is rejected. While each of them offered gifts according to the command, the inward state of Cain’s heart was incorrect. Thus God rejected his sacrifice. We can see that it was the case of the inward state, when he is presented with this truth. God loved Cain and offered him the chance to repent in asking, “Did you not sin?” God also commended him for bringing the right gifts (brought it rightly), but commanded him to still his heart that was dominated by passions. Rather than giving himself over to these passions of sorrow and arrogance, He calls Cain to repent, to still his heart, to be the guardian of his brother.
The text doesn’t say what wickedness made his heart discontent as he offered up his sacrifice, and to interject speculation is something that I’d rather not do. However, what is given to us is that the state of his heart was incorrect, and when he was offered the chance to repent, he refused to acknowledge that he had done anything wrong. He rejected the peace and calm, the stillness of heart, offered to him by the Lord, and instead, using his abundant guilt as an excuse, rejected this offer and allowed his passions to blind him. These passions ultimately led to anger, to hatred, and to murder.
All too often, however, we choose the same path. We fall into some form of sin and allow the guilt of our sin to blind us to the peace of repentance, to the grace that the Lord offers abundantly every moment of our life. Thus, we continue to add sin to sin, letting these feelings of guilt, of anger, of sorrow, to continually multiply; with each transgression causing us to believe ourselves more and more unforgivable. And this is a trick of the enemy. He will whisper gently into our ears, “you can’t turn back from that,” or “you’ve sinned far too much now, it’s too late for you.” He tries to convince us that we can do it on the basis of our own willpower and then elevates our failures in front of our eyes so that eventually that’s all we can see.
But my brethern, there is so much more. It is only through the power of God that we are able to break this cycle. There is no way that we, in our own willpower will ever achieve the “righteousness of God,” but rather only through His grace. We can, nay, we must, stop this endless cycle. St Mark the Ascetic teaches us that “there is always a sin which is ‘unto death,’ the sin for which we do not repent.” No sin is too great for God to forgive aside from the sin from which we do not repent of. Let each of us humbly fall down before the Lord and repent of each of our sins, however great or small, and receive the grace, love, and mercy of our beloved Lord Jesus. Let us seek His counsel, and turn to Him, for in our weakness, we are made strong, but it is only once we admit that weakness that we receive His strength, it is only once we willfully commit to turning away from our sin and seeking His kingdom that we receive this grace. When climbing the ladder of divine ascent, we must remember that we can never climb it on our own, He comes to meet us, but we must at least begin by climbing the steps towards Him.
Christ is in our midst.