Reading: Genesis 4
8 Now Cain said to his brother Abel, ‘Let’s go out to the field.’ While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. 9 Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Where is your brother Abel?’ ‘I don’t know,’ he replied. ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’
10 The Lord said, ‘What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. 11 Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.’
13 Cain said to the Lord, ‘My punishment is more than I can bear. 14 Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.’
During his time in Carthage, young Augustine diligently studied public speaking, seeing it more as a way to find true happiness than a future source of income. The more he indulged in his passions, the stronger he felt the need to search for something more lasting in life. He frequented the theatre and was often moved by the plays he watched. The misery of the characters resonated with his own, and he often found himself deeply moved during the shows, with tears rolling down his cheeks. Full of contradicting emotions, he could not understand what was happening to him.
"It led me to. . . plunge into treacherous abysses, into depths of unbelief and a delusive allegiance to demons, to whom I was offering my evil deeds in sacrifice. And in all these sins your scourges beat upon me. Even within the walls of your church, during the celebration of your sacred mysteries, I once made bold to indulge in carnal desire and conduct that could yield only a harvest of death; and for this you struck me with severe punishments, though none that matched my guilt. O my God, you were immensely merciful to me, and were my refuge from withdrew further and further from you, loving my own ways and not yours, relishing the freedom of a runaway slave."
This is also the image of a modern life where we are plunged into the depths of unbelief, surprised by the advancement of technology, speed of information flow, and desensitised by ruthless competition. Augustine is lost in the maze of everyday life, and he starts to wander aimlessly but wants to do so with his head held up high. He goes further and further away from God. And if he also carries the heavy burden of past sins, he is in danger of becoming a fugitive. It was also true for Cain. But the Lord did not give us life so that we would suffer endlessly. We read in the Book of Isaiah: "though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool" (Isa 1:18).
"Lord, I need to be rid of the heavy burden of past sins, to be free from their crushing weight. Lord, I do not want to be a fugitive. I need your forgiveness so I can know the freedom which comes from trusting in the Lord and believing in the God who is almighty and merciful.”