More on Culpability

I see RNS picking up and commenting on Fr Longenecker’s possession theme for the Aurora shootings, and I wanted to follow up a bit more on last week’s “Culpability” post. I repeat again: not having direct contact with the person involved, I have no rational claim to say the shooter was possessed, mentally ill, or just plain “fallen.”

What struck me was my lectio in Genesis 4 yesterday, especially this passage (4b-8) following the brothers’ offering the Lord their sacrifices:

(T)he Lord had regard for Abel and his offering,but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.

The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.”

Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let us go out to the field.” And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him.

After praying I was struck with how this whole passage of lurking and murder was handled in contrast to the snake’s direct seduction of the woman in the Garden of Eden.

This is more in keeping with the ordinary experience of sin, even deeply grave acts. Something in us, something like our “countenance” falls, and sin lurks at the door. Is this “sin” something personified in a supernatural being? Or is it easier for us to avoid blame–part of our fallen human nature–and say the snake “made” me do it.

Maybe the door is an interior one within us. Maybe the battered soul is barricaded in an inner room, and the lurking is something from our own history, our own choices, our own self.

I do think the genius of the Catholic sacramental system provides us with the way out, the escape from sin. Like the nativity, and like the other sacraments, Jesus Christ becomes incarnate in our deepest experience of Reconciliation. It demands that we resist our natural urge to blockade, to defend, to excuse, and avoid. The way out is unlocking the door, admitting our own culpability, and throwing ourselves on the mercy of God.

The only clever maxim I have to go with this:

Easier said than done.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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