“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.”

Lk 1:38

… Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife.

Mt 1:24

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The first quote records Mary’s response to the angel who appeared to her to explain her holy pregnancy.  It is her willing compliance with God’s plan as presented.

The second passage tells us of Joseph to whom an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to explain Mary’s pregnancy and God’s intention. It shows his willing compliance with God’s plan.

I am often struck by how literal we have become in secular culture.  We are far poorer for it.

If a culture bleeds faith and religious narrative out of it, its people become less insightful, more easily controlled as the range of their experience is destroyed, made more narrow. They lose imagination and independence, see less well, hear less well, reduce their capacity for intimacy, for acquiring the experience of others; indeed, they reduce their capacity to receive others.

In that state, loneliness grows and those in power can isolate and easily divide people into hostile groups.  Institutions like family, and marriage, community and neighborhood fall apart, life becomes more desperate on a daily basis for unless we are dependent on those with power – we perceive ourselves at great personal, individual risk.

This is a key to control of others by communist and fascist totalitarians.  It is why they always exclude faith where they secure power, for faith breeds independence.

Well, what does this have to do with Mary and Joseph?

First, each lived with the capacity to experience life in its fullness because they were Believers.  They engaged their faith and it animated them, invigorated them, sustained their imagination, opened them to life’s gifts and its full experience.  They prove in this the value of faith in culture, its necessity for us.

Secondly, each could discern what they experienced as what they believed God wanted of them.  In this, their life had meaning, and was not consigned to a barren and narrow existence which they alone were required to negotiate day after day, year after year.

They lived more fully than non-believers do, than many here do today.  They had the liberty to pursue happiness.  That liberty and that happiness was contingent on a relationship with God, contingent on “doing the right and faithful thing.”

Aside from the importance to each individual living this way, it is also important for institutions to live in this manner – to advance liberty, seek happiness and discern and follow the will of God.  Yes, it takes keeping faith at the center of one’s life, institutions and culture to do this.

Soon the Republican Party will have a test that puts this into play.

Mr. Trump has captured the serious sentiments of those many, many citizens who feel left out and left behind.  The Party elders and insiders do not “cotton” to Trump; he, like those who vote for him, is not like them, not part of their ruling group.  He is not a Pharisee.

The test will come.

Mr. Trump is likely to fall short of the required number of delegates to claim the Party’s nomination.  He will be close, however.  So one will see whether the Party elders and insiders can do what is right, discern that perhaps God is showing them: that they have not embraced their members, that indeed Mr. Trump might be showing them that the Party can grow if their arms are open to receive.

The question then: Will they be like Mary and Joseph?  Or will they be self-centered, blind and unbelieving?