Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
–Luke 6:36

In today’s Gospel, Jesus describes how we are to act toward one another. Continuing his Sermon on the Plain, Jesus addresses his disciples, asking them to “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (Luke 6:27-28).

Jesus’ words challenge all who follow him to show others the same mercy that we would want to receive ourselves. That is how God loves us—beyond anything we can possibly fathom. He calls on each of us to love in the same way.

Everyone has been faced with the challenge of giving love when love is difficult to give. This is especially true for many of the families and communities we work with in South Sudan who are being asked to welcome back children who are former child soldiers. These are children who had been abducted or forcibly recruited by armed groups and made to do terrible things, often to their own family and community members.

Former child soldiers in South Sudan in a Child Friendly Space.

As the children are released from the bush, our team works hard to reunite them with their families and communities. This can be a difficult, as often these children are rejected, and even when they are not, they have to overcome feelings of guilt and shame. One child shared with us, “I think my family is afraid of me.”

And for some of these children, there is no family to return to. As was the case for 16-year-old Jaden. His parents were no longer around. “I didn’t know what was next for me.”

But then something beautiful happened.

During a church service one Sunday morning, members of our CMMB team were invited to speak about former child soldiers who had no families to return to. They described a foster family program, asking willing members of the community to find forgiveness in their hearts and consider giving a child a place to call home.

Joseph and his wife heard this call. They learned about Jaden. They thought about the risks, about bringing someone new into their family. But they knew he needed a home, he needed to belong. They believed he deserved a chance at a better life, so they invited him into their family.

former child soldier with foster parents

When we met Jaden, he had only been with his new family a few weeks, but the feeling of love was palpable. “They make me feel like I belong here. It’s a really nice feeling.”

Joseph explained, “He had nobody else. He is now part of this family and he will always be welcome here.” He went on, “And he’s become such a big help to me. I have a garden where I grow things like groundnuts and maize, and Jaden comes with me every day. He makes my life a little better. His company and help is something I cherish.”

Joseph’s family showed mercy to a boy who’d lost everything. They showed him God’s love. And when we give love in this way, we are always rewarded.

As the Lenten season approaches, may we find ways to love generously and mercifully, as God loves us.

In grace and peace,

CMMB/Healthier Lives Worldwide

Today’s reflection was inspired by Loyola Press.

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