Today’s first reading continues with the accounts in the Book of Genesis. We move from the story of Cain and Abel at the beginning of Genesis 4 to the story of Noah in Genesis 6. Let me fill in the highlights in between. The descendants of Cain are described in terms of violence (Lamech) and yet at the same time as craftsmen, nomads, and minstrels. We also learn that Adam and Eve have another son, Seth, who is described – not in terms of occupation – but in terms of the practice of worshiping God as Seth’s lineage “began to invoke the LORD by name.” (Gen 4:26). Genesis 5 is a genealogy of the generations from Seth to Noah. – and his sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Taking the text literally, between the sin of Cain and the Flood is a period of 1,600 years. Quite a long time to let things play out, so to speak.
During this time God witnesses the fruit of the descendants of Cain: “When the LORD saw how great was man’s wickedness on earth, and how no desire that his heart conceived was ever anything but evil, he regretted that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was grieved.” The evil is so great that it even violates the boundaries between the heavenly and earthly realms.
At first, we are likely shocked that God regretted creating humanity and so much so that He intends to destroy it all, but at the same we are to note that this judgment is balanced by God’s will to save. And God chooses to save the descendant of Seth, the ones who “invoke the LORD by name.”
As I noted yesterday, we live in a world of temptation, yet surrounded by grace. We have the ability to make choices that grieve God’s heart and will lead us to face God’s judgment. We are given the grace to make choices that lead to the deepest desire of God, that all be saved (2 Peter 3:9) And we are given time.
God told Adam that “the moment you eat from it [the fruit] you are surely doomed to die” (Gen 2:17), but still Adam lived on for many hundreds of years after his sin; this “delay” was interpreted as a gift of grace to Adam to allow time for repentance before judgment.
We are given time and grace to choose to use or not use grace – and to invoke the Lord by name. God has choices: judgment or giving sinners time to repent before judgment comes. Let us make God’s choice easy.