Thursday, July 16, 2015

Reading the Story of Cain and Abel Differently

Why did Cain kill his brother Abel?  A priest from the Seoul Diocese asks the question and surprises us with an answer which you rarely hear, and it makes a lot of sense. The first Israelites were  sheep herders, and the story is a teaching story for their descendents, and it all fits together. He explains his interpretation in an article in the Kyeongyang magazine.

We usually say it was jealousy on the part of Cain but if we leave it at that we make God the one who aroused the jealousy. Did God prefer meat over the crops, fruits and vegetables of the land? The writers want us to understand that Cain was a sedentary farmer with a lot of land and rich, while Abel was a wandering shepherd with his little flock going from one pasture  to another. He was not what we would call a large stock farmer. He had to work in the rain, and cold; he was a poor shepherd. God appreciated the life of Abel and accepted his sacrifice.

We today in the Church take the  example of God in choosing to be on the side of the poor.This choice is not always easy. Pope Benedict after he retired was considered a very conservative pope, but in his Encyclical Charity in Truth he was called a German Communist in certain areas of the World. Here in Korea we have the same response when anyone speaks for the poor, listens to their complaints, and becomes active in their cause-- they are labeled 'followers of the North'.

What kind of world are we living in? We still have many who are without property and are living a difficult life. We meet many of them in Korea. Marxism was a movement that wanted to liberate them and at one time had over half of the world in their control. The curtain came down on their efforts, workers were hoping that a change would come in their situation, but it has deteriorated. Today the gap between the rich and poor has grown larger. We have another Cain and Abel story.

The priest looks at the situation in Korea. As a member of OECD ( Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) it has the largest number of suicides and the lowest birthrate, a sign that life is not very attractive to many Koreans. Land is no longer easily bought. The number of industrial disasters is the highest, hours of work are the second longest in OECD. Of all the countries money spent on welfare is the lowest, and family debts are high.

The middle class is ceasing to exist and the rich are getting richer. Young people are finding it difficult to find work, and the  many irregular workers always in danger of being fired. The condition of the old people in society is the worse in the OECD, and we are absorbed in improving the situation for the wealthy, and this is the reality in most of the world.

He concludes the article with a hope that instead of greed, disobedience, and jealousy we will accept modesty, humility and  be influenced by the teachings of Jesus. The dignity of all human beings, hopefully will be recognized. We should not only help the strong  we need to work for a society in which we are all brothers and sisters. We all need to work for a society in which we all are holding hands working together.

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