What is human mercy like? It makes you concerned for the hardship of the poor. What is divine mercy like? It forgives sinners… In this world God is cold and hungry in all the poor, as he himself said (Mt 25,40)… What sort of people are we? When God gives, we want to receive, when he asks, we refuse to give? When a poor man is hungry, Christ is in need, as he said himself: “I was hungry and you gave me no food” (v.42). Take care not to despise the hardship of the poor, if you would hope, without fear, to have your sins forgiven… What he receives on earth he returns in heaven.I put you this question, dearly beloved: what is it you want, what is it you are looking for, when you come to church? What indeed if not mercy? Show mercy on earth, and you will receive mercy in heaven. A poor man is begging from you, and you are begging from God: he asks for a scrap, you ask for eternal life… And so when you come to church give whatever alms you can to the poor in accordance with your means. —Saint Caesarius of Arles (470-543), monk and Bishop Sermon 25 ; SC 243 (trans. breviary 17th Monday rev.)
Now, clearly, this was not some great act of generosity, and since I am here “announcing it with trumpets” (MT 6:2) I suspect that my reward, if any, has been proportionally diminished. But in the end, mercy is not transactional: God does not keep a big ledger and pay back our generosity with his (at a steep discount!). Mercy is relational, a gift between persons. So today, please help me by remembering this anonymous beggar in Munich in your prayers and also remember the clerks in the store, who were also instruments of God’s generosity.