Now the man knew his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, "I have produced a man with the help of the Lord." Next she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a tiller of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel for his part brought of the firstlings of his flock, their fat portions. And the 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. Then the Lord said to Cain, "Where is your brother Abel?" He said, I do not know; am I my brother's keeper?" And the Lord said, "What have you done? Listen; your brother's blood is crying out to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. When you till the ground, it will no longer yield to you its strength; you will be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth." Cain said to the Lord, "My punishment is greater than I can bear. Today you have driven me away from the soil, and I shall be hidden from your face; I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and anyone who meets me may kill me." Then the Lord said to him, "Not so. Whoever kills Cain will suffer a sevenfold vengeance." And the Lord put a mark on Cain, so that nobody who came upon him would kill him.
Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and named him Seth, for she said, "God has appointed for me another child instead of Abel, because Cain killed him."
The God of gods, the Lord,
has spoken and summoned the earth,
from the rising of the sun to its setting.
I find no fault with your sacrifices,
your offerings are always before me. (R./)
But how can you recite my commandments
and take my covenant on your lips,
you who despise my law
and throw my words to the winds. (R./)
You who sit and malign your brother
and slander your own mother's son.
You do this, and should I keep silence?
Do you think that I am like you? (R./)
The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, asking him for a sign from heaven, to test him. And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, "Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to this generation." And he left them, and getting into the boat again, he went across to the other side.
St Mark refers more often to the emotions of Jesus than any other evangelist. In today's reading, Mark states that Jesus responded to the Pharisees' request for a sign from heaven "with a sigh that came straight from the heart." That sigh led to the question, "Why does this generation demand a sign?" We can almost sense the frustration of Jesus in that sigh, straight from the heart. Religious people are often tempted to search breathlessly for signs from heaven, to long for and emphasise the extra-ordinary and unusual. Jesus always directs us towards the ordinary, the sower who goes out to sow his field, the woman who looks for her lost coin, the care given to a stranger on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, the man who unexpectedly finds treasure in his field, and so on. It is in the ordinary that the mystery of God's kingdom is to be found, because God's good creation of full of God's glory.
If faith is at the centre of biblical religion, we must seek what is the heart of faith. From the gospel we learn that faith does not revolve around miracles. When jealous and suspicious people test Jesus and demand some heavenly sign, he sighs about the weakness of their faith. St James urges us to cope with every sort of trial, for "When faith is tested this makes for endurance, so that you may be fully mature."
Cain might run away from his family but he could not run away from God. "The Lord put a mark on Cain," a mark of divine protection, a pledge of the Creator's fidelity to all he has made. When some people responded to Jesus with suspicion and envy, he left them and went off. Such dispositions do not keep Jesus in our midst; he remains only with people of faith, compassion and forgiveness.