Mary and Joseph of Nazareth, Mahatma Gandhi
The anawim of the Old Testament were the poor of every sort: the vulnerable, the marginalized, and socio-economically oppressed, those of lowly status without earthly power. In fact, they depended totally on God for whatever they owned. The Hebrew word anawim (inwetan) means those who are bowed down.
Mahatma Gandhi understood inwetan as the way of bhakti, that is, loving devotion and surrender to God. In times of suffering, the anawim remained faithful and awaited the good things of the Lord to fill their emptiness, as the Lucan gospel tells us in (Lk 1:53). They delighted in the Lord because they were rooted in him.
Mary of Nazareth belonged to the anawim. Her life of fidelity had singled her out for a special role in God’s salvific plan. She was already betrothed to Joseph, and when God’s plan was put to her, quite naturally, she asked how it would happen. Mary’s free acceptance allowed the Spirit to work in her. In proclaiming her Magnificat, she acknowledged that the Almighty has done great things for her in her lowliness in contrast to God’s dealings with the proud (Lk 1:47).
Mary shines among the anawim about whom Jesus later speaks in the Sermon on the Mount. She is the first model of discipleship in the New Testament.
Like Mary, Joseph of Nazareth also belonged to the anawim. In a dream, he experienced his own annunciation in which he responded to God’s mandate and assumed his role in salvation-history (Mt1:18-25). Joseph was deeply troubled that Mary’s child was not his. He had no foreknowledge of Mary’s Annunciation, no foreknowledge of Mary’s divine pregnancy. He had to be told. Like Joseph of the Old Testament, through a dream, he was asked to entrust his future entirely to God. He understood that by divine choice, he would be the child’s earthly father, assuming responsibility both for legitimizing the child and for naming him. Like Mary, Joseph trusted in God’s providential care.