"But Saint Paul and the sacred Scriptures tell us that the quarrelsome man and the troublemaker, who is never at peace with his brothers, cannot escape the charge of internal dissension even though he may die for Christ’s name. For it is written: He who hates his brother is a murderer, nor can he attain the kingdom of heaven. God cannot abide a murderer. He cannot be united with Christ, who has preferred to imitate Judas rather than Christ."
This quote is from St. Cyprian's treatise on the Our Father, which we are reading these days in the Office of Readings. He illustrates his point with the account of Cain's unworthy sacrifice and his murder of his brother Abel, the righteous one.
The great Father of the Church gave me pause to reexamine something I had somewhat thoughtlessly held about the sacrifices of the two brothers ever since my childhood and namely that Cain's sacrifice did not please God because he did not offer up his very best. That is fine as far as it goes, but it misses the point that Cain's very best would have to have included his heart, which somehow or another just wasn't in it: "the quarrelsome man and the troublemaker, who is never at peace with his brothers, cannot escape the charge of internal dissension even though he may die for Christ’s name."
To say it another way, God rejected Cain's offering because his heart was not in it. Cain slew his brother Abel out of a jealousy which had held his heart bound since long before the sacrifice incident.
Hypocrisy we know and condemn, but the point here is slightly different, which may explain why it was lost upon me as a child. There is nothing pro forma about offering sacrifice; we must place our heart, our life, all that we have and are upon the altar with our gift; otherwise, it is not a true sacrifice at all, it is not worthy of the God Who loves us.
Ultimately, this is the genius of St. Louis de Montfort and what he describes as becoming Mary's and therefore God's slave, totally dependent, as opposed to being a servant with something less than that true, because it is total, devotion, which is the least we can offer our Creator and Redeemer, through the Mother of God, who by her total submission to the Divine Will was able to make a gift of her Son for the sake of us all.
Cyprian is saying that martyrdom does not serve you if your heart is not in it. St. John de Brebeuf's diary, just like the epistles of St. Ignatius of Antioch, illustrate that martyrdom is not something we snatch for ourselves or that takes us totally by surprise, but rather something we pray ourselves into in accord with God's will.
Let us pray that death, whether it be a peaceful or violent one, does not catch us "the quarrelsome man and the troublemaker, who is never at peace with his brothers..." Would that our daily sacrifices here and now come before the Lord as acceptable, because presented by a humble and contrite heart, something He just cannot spurn.
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