Monday, February 14, 2011

Sts. Cyril and Methodius

While our culture celebrates Valentine's Day with candy and flowers, we celebrate something much more profound. Today we celebrate two brothers from the ninth century who shaped not only the faith but also the language and culture of a significant portion of what we know as Eastern Europe.

Cyril and Methodius became known the apostles to the Slavs. Needing to find a way to translate the bible and other texts in the local languages of the people they created an alphabet. In its older form known as the Gaigolitic alphabet, it is known in its modern form as the Cyrillic alphabet and is used today is over 25 languages, and Church Slovonic still used by many Eastern Churches.

In the west we tend to thing of mass in the language of the people as something modern. The saints we celebrate today reminds us that the church has a long history of translating the gospel as needed to carry out its mission to "go forth and teach all nations." As we celebrate the saints of the past, we must ask ourselves how we can remain faithful to the tradition and simultaneously translate the gospel into a language that can be understood.

In the first reading today we get the famous story of Cain and Abel. If we look closely at this theological text we see how error can grow into sin. The story recounts how it began when Cain, being a farmer, offered some of his produce to God, and Abel offered one of his best firstlings. God was pleased with Abel and not Cain but it is worth noting that so far there was no sin on Cain's part.

The seed of the sin is the resentment Cain feels. Instead of saying, "I messed up, and God is not happy with me." Cain resents Abel's success.
God's words to Cain are profound, "If you do well, you can hold up your head; but if not, sin is a demon lurking at the door: his urge is toward you, yet you can be his master.”

At this point Cain could have simply accepted his mistake, learned, from it, and made a better choice for his next offering; but he did not. He allowed his anger and resentment fester, and we know the rest of the story.

God tells us that when it comes to sin, we can be its master. We will always have moments of temptation; they are a part of human life. Sin comes from how we choose to react to that temptation. The sooner we recognize the temptation and respond appropriately the better. Let that flash of anger be that, just a flash and nothing more. The same should be true with resentment, jealousy, greed for things we don't need, and all those other feelings that lead us away from the shalom God wants for all of us.