November 25, 2011

Emmaus Walk / Debra Tomaselli

This season and always, will you accept the gift of God’s love?

Debra TomaselliOur Bible study group adopted the struggling family of a business associate for Christmas.

Keeping the project discreet, I met my co-worker, Megan, in an abandoned parking lot to deliver the presents. I had parked my car and opened the trunk when a man with messy red hair, a tattered shirt and missing teeth suddenly appeared.

He carried a few limp daisies, and said he was selling them for money to rent a room that night. I hesitated, but he kept his distance, gently awaiting my decision. After assessing the situation, I decided to “buy” a couple of his flowers.

Hoping to help him, I searched my wallet, but found only coins. Disappointed, I dug out every quarter, nickel and dime then handed them to him, and he offered me a flower. I started to take one, but instead thanked him and suggested that he keep them to sell to someone else.

He offered a smile as he turned to leave, then stopped and looked back at me.

“Thank you,” he said. “God bless you.” With that, he was gone.

Megan and I began moving presents from my trunk to hers when another person approached, pointed to me, and said, “Don’t I know you?”

I looked into the eyes of an old, dear friend that I hadn’t seen in years.

“Rosa!” I shouted. She was walking through the parking lot to meet a friend for lunch at a nearby restaurant. Smiling, we hugged and swapped stories about our current lives before parting.

Finally, Megan and I put the last of the Christmas gifts into her car. It was a toy wrapped with green paper depicting the Nativity. Megan stood quietly, surveying all the presents, and swallowed the lump in her throat.

“Your church group has done so much,” she whispered. “Thank you. Merry Christmas.”

We hugged, and I fought back tears.

We parted, but I couldn’t shake the day’s events or the powerful message that they delivered.

In a few short minutes of my life, I learned something about the love of God.

There, in the back of that parking lot, love greeted me in many forms—my business associate, to whom I was delivering the presents; the homeless man, for whom I felt overpowering compassion; and an old dear friend, offering everlasting love and understanding.

I cared for each of them equally. Mysteriously, I felt no division in my love for the business associate, the stranger or the old friend.

This must be how God loves us. We are all unique. We are all at differing stages in our relationship with him.

And, yet, he loves each one of us, without limit, without preference and without bounds.

This Christmas, give yourself the gift that keeps on giving by believing in God’s love for you. No matter if you consider yourself stranger or friend, whether you’ve stumbled or persisted, wandered far or stayed close. There is no division in his love for us. He loves us all equally.

As St. Augustine said, “God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.”

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

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