November 27, 2009

Emmaus Walk / Debra Tomaselli

Who is your role model in today’s world?

Debra TomaselliLike Mary, the little girl from Nazareth, we, too, are invited to bring Christ into the world. The story began more than 2,000 years ago, and continues today.

Balancing a water jug on her head, Mary strolled along the path that led to the well. The early morning solitude was broken only by the twittering of sparrows.

There, near the well, someone appeared. A supernatural glow surrounded the figure, and Mary trembled at the sight. “Hail, favored one,” the angel Gabriel said. “The Lord is with you” (Lk 1:28).

Mary froze. We are told she was confused and distressed. I can only imagine. I would be, too.

In the moments that followed, Mary’s carefree world turned upside down.

“Do not be afraid, Mary,” the angel began (Lk 1:30). He explained that God had plans for her to become pregnant, have a child, and that she was to name him Jesus.

Mary shifted her clay jar to the ground, absorbing the words. She wrinkled her nose and scratched her head, wondering how this could happen. She was, after all, a virgin.

The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God” (Lk 1:35).

This made about as much sense as turning water to wine, inviting a paralytic to walk or feeding multitudes with seven loaves and two fish. It made about as much sense as an unexplainable healing, restoration of a difficult marriage or an unexpected provision during economic struggles.

How could these things happen?

But there was something convincing in the message, something beyond human understanding, something divine.

So, despite the contradictions, the young virgin believed.

And in that belief, Mary put herself at risk.

If she became pregnant out of wedlock, Joseph, her betrothed, was entitled to leave her. Under Jewish law, she could be stoned. Shame, abandonment, even death threatened her dreams of security, a home and a family. Mary knew that.

Unlike Mary, I’ve chosen safety and comfort when the perils were far less than that.

The first time that God called me to carry Christ into the world, I cringed at the risk. A lonely girl sat under the overpass, arms folded around bended knees, head ducked down.

As I sat in my vehicle waiting for the light to change, an angel whispered to me, “Stop. She needs your help. Do something. Offer an encouraging word.”

Instead, I winced at the ramshackle neighborhood and shut my window. I wanted to help, but I was afraid, confused and distressed. I watched the traffic light turn green, and zoomed away.

Mary, however, offers a different response.

Somewhere, somehow, deep within, her reply came, without hesitation, without trepidation, and without faltering. It arrived with strength, conviction and composure. It was unfettered by the dangers involved.

“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord,” Mary said. “May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38).

(Debra Tomaselli lives in Altamonte Springs, Fla. Her column appears in several diocesan newspapers. Her e-mail address is †

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