From a Sermon by St. Caesarius of Arles, Bishop
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. My brothers and sisters, sweet is the thought of mercy, but even more so is mercy itself. It is what all men hope for, but unfortunately, not what all men deserve. For while all men wish to receive it, only a few are willing to give it.
How can a man ask for himself what he refuses to give to another? If he expects to receive any mercy in heaven, he should give mercy on earth. Do we all desire to receive mercy? Let us make mercy our patroness now, and she will free us in the world to come. Yes, there is mercy in heaven, but the road to it is paved by our merciful acts on earth. As scripture says: Lord your mercy is in heaven.
There is, therefore, an earthly as well as heavenly mercy, that is to say, a human and a divine mercy. Human mercy has compassion on the miseries of the poor. Divine mercy grants forgiveness of sins. Whatever human mercy bestows here on earth, divine mercy will return to us in our homeland. In this life God feels cold and hunger in all who are stricken with poverty; for remember, He once said: “What you have done to the least of my brothers you have done for me.” Yes, God who sees fit to give his mercy in heaven wishes it to be a reality here on earth.
What kind of people are we? When God gives, we wish to receive, but when He begs, we refuse to give. Remember, it was Christ who said: “I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat.” When the poor are starving, Christ too hungers. Do not neglect to improve the unhappy conditions of the poor if you wish to insure that your own sins be forgiven you. Christ hungers now, my brethren; it is he who deigns to hunger and thirst in the person of the poor. And what he will return in heaven tomorrow is what He receives here on earth today.
What do you wish for, what do you pray for, my dear brothers and sisters, when you come to church? Is it mercy? How can it be anything else? Show mercy, then, while you are on earth, and mercy will be shown to you in heaven. A poor person asks you for something; you ask God for something. He begs for a morsel of food; you beg for eternal life. Give to the beggar so that you may merit to receive from Christ. For He it is who said: “Give and it will be given to you.” It baffles me that you have the impudence to ask for what you do not want to give. Give when you come to church. Give to the poor. Give them whatever your resources will allow.
A couple of scriptural verses are added here for our reflection:
Matthew 6:19-21,33: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rot consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things shall be yours as well.”
Matthew 7:26-27: “And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell; and great was the fall of it.”