Fr. Leo Pabayo .
IN the beginning, after God created man, He gave man to have dominion over all things that He created. Having dominion means that we are somewhat co-creator with God in making the world better by working on it. Sadly, the first “commentary” on work that we read about in the Bible, is about the effects of the sin of our first parents, Adam and Eve. With regards to work, God said to Adam, “Because you have eaten of the tree which I instructed you not to eat, cursed is the land that you work in. In hardship you shall eat from it… thorns and thistles shall it produce for you. By the sweat of your brow you shall eat.” (Genesis 1:17-19).
However, the Book of Genesis also tells us that the descendants of Adam will start making the world better. This would be started by Abel, the second son of Adam and Eve.
Their first son was Cain who was into planting. Abel, the second son, was into herding sheep. Abel thanked God for his work and was successful in his work.
As an act of thanksgiving Abel made an offering in thanksgiving to God. We do not read that Cain thanked God for his work. The story about Cain and Abel also implies that God was displeased with Cain. Cain was envious with Abel for his success and thanksgiving and killed him.
This story about Cain and Abel gives us a commentary on how the work that man does is looked upon by God. If it is an honest to goodness work then God blesses it and accepts the act of thanksgiving that man makes for his work. If the work is done for a bad purpose it will bear bad fruits and will not be blessed by God. This must have been the case with Cain. His work did not bear good fruit but instead resulted in envy toward in his brother Abel that led him to kill Abel.
Perhaps all the crimes and corruption in the world are the bad fruits of this envy.
Cain, however, was not totally rejected by God who provided Cain with the means to help him not to be also killed by others. Perhaps, from this we can deduce that Capital punishment is not acceptable to God.
The practice of making an offering of thanksgiving for the good work that man does is also done in other in other religions that have a good image of God that they believe in. It is certainly true that this was the usual practice of the holy people of the Bible who were led by Moses out of slavery.
In the Bible the common act of thanksgiving and celebration of the holy or Chosen people of God consisted not only nor mainly by offering the first fruits of their work. The most significant acts of thanksgiving and celebration were those about the saving acts of God that the Chosen people experienced, especially for being saved from their enemies. Central to this and the one that the Old Testament part of the Bible is mainly about is their liberation from slavery in Egypt that made them into a holy nation that was led by Moses.
In the Book of Exodus their act of worship and thanksgiving for their liberation consisted of offering lambs or sheeps before they departed from Egypt. They slaughtered these and then burnt and ate them. (Exodus 12:1-11).
It can be said that the history of the oppressed people who have been liberated by God through Moses would be the real model of the liberation of many people and nations in the world who have succeeded in being liberated from oppression. We, Filipinos before and after we became a nation have had our own experiences of being oppressed and enslaved. We thank God and celebrate our liberation in various occasions. We consider this a gift of God and also the work of our hand. We integrate this into our act of thanksgiving in our fiesta celebration.
(Fr. Leo Pabayo is a member of the Roman Catholic religious order Society of Jesus.)