Authentic righteousness is fair and merciful

Authentic righteousness is fair and merciful

Matthew 1:16, 18-21, 24a. Joseph finds out about Mary’s pregnancy

Imagine you are a man engaged to a woman, then suddenly, you find out that the woman you are engaged with is pregnant, and you did not have intercourse with this woman. What would you reasonably conclude? Most likely, the woman had an affair.

Of course, Joseph would be surprised and pained to discover that Mary is pregnant. If Joseph became filled with rage, it would be perfectly reasonable. But without having any form of divine revelation yet, Joseph’s move is already admirable: silently divorce Mary so that Mary will not be stoned to death (as is the custom for women supposedly guilty of adultery). This is already admirable in itself. At this point, it’s perfectly reasonable for Joseph to conclude that Mary cheated on him with another man; Joseph could have opted to just not care about Mary at all. But in this most stressful of situations, he chose to be a better man. This is fair AND merciful.

The Immaculate Conception is a miracle that cannot be naturally explained, so I think it is perfectly fitting for God to help Joseph in his predicament by sending angels to guide his reflections. I wonder, what went inside Joseph’s head?

I infer that he thought of Mary’s pristine track record, his faith in God, and the very untypical event that Mary, of all people, would have cheated on him. In a sense, the decision of Joseph to trust Mary is the fruit of intersecting faith and reason. If Mary would have had a history of cheating in the past, would Joseph have believed any messages from an angel? I doubt it. If logic and reason were to prevail alone, it is more practical to conclude that Mary cheated.

Imagine the discernment Joseph had to do to reconcile reason and faith. If Joseph purely relied on faith, he would just immediately believe Mary’s claim that she is pregnant with the Son of God but she didn’t cheat on Joseph. But a reasonable man needs evidence and time to discern, which Joseph required, and in God’s mercy, He helped Joseph in his journey.

Maybe the lesson is that a person who strives to be authentic in being fair and merciful, even in the most unusual of circumstances, encourages God to grant a greater grace. Authentic righteousness can create a virtuous cycle of grace and spiritual wisdom.

Just as Joseph was fair and merciful to Mary, God was fair and merciful to Joseph. Isn’t this a great example of being a living likeness of God?


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