Spiritual Life Week Recap
Bluffton University celebrates Spiritual Life Week with message from Isaac Villegas
From Oct. 29 through Nov. 2, Bluffton University students celebrated Spiritual Life Week with the theme “Becoming Messengers of God’s Peace.” Students explored this theme in two ways, through the Scripture “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace…” Isaiah 52:7 and through the message of Spiritual Life Week Speaker, Isaac Villegas, pastor of Chapel Hill (N.C.) Mennonite Fellowship.
During his Forum presentation, “Bearing Witness: Mary as Our Guide” Villegas outlined two ways that Mary became a messenger of God’s peace that people often emulate today—by providing sanctuary to and by standing in solidarity with Jesus.
“When we think about our lives, when we think about our ethics, our politics, the way we go about things, when we navigate all of these aspects of our lives, as Christians, we start with Jesus as our guide, Jesus as our expert in all things divine and human, Jesus as the one who leads us in the way of peace. And we so easily forget that the story starts with Mary and that Jesus learned his vision from Mary,” said Villegas.
Villegas explained that Mary provided a lifetime of sanctuary for Jesus as evident in the Gospel of Luke. Mary is with Jesus every step of the way, starting with the angel announcing God’s kingdom.
“She is the one who gives life to Christ, who bears God in her own body—her life as a sanctuary for the Gospel. That’s the first theme, the first way she bears witness—as a sanctuary.”
Villegas has witnessed members of his community taking on the role of Mary over the last few months by providing sanctuary to a man at risk of deportation. Several churches have rallied around the man and his family by providing food, fellowship and a safe space inside of a church. They are being like Mary “by making a home, a dwelling place for life to survive.”
The second theme—standing in solidarity— finds Mary at the end of Christ’s life, at the crucifixion, where she is bearing witness to his torture and death.
And it’s in protest movements, where people are standing in solidarity with the tortured, the dead and the disadvantaged that Villegas has started to routinely notice the image of Mary.
“Mary matters to protest movements, and I think part of it has to do with her story, her life, her ministry, the way she bears witness to our struggle for hope,” Villegas explained.
Villegas pointed to a range of movements that have embraced Mary, from the 1977 gathering of mothers on the Plaza de mayo in Argentina after their children had been kidnapped by the government to candles flickering in the crowds of protestors following the 2014 killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. “She was there with them, shining light,” said Villegas.
The disenfranchised, the oppressed and the poor connect with Mary, Villegas said, because her story, too, is one of devastation, violence and oppression.
“She lives in the middle of two powerful forces of oppression. From the one side, the Roman Empire, an occupying power, treating her as part of a disposable population,” said Villegas. “And from the other side, her own people. There was a popular prayer during Mary’s time that men would pray. They would say, ‘Thank you God that you have made me a man and not a gentile, and not a slave and not a woman.’”
Despite the conditions of her day and the suffering continuing in the world today, Mary’s own celebratory prayer, the Magnificat, explained Villegas, reminds us that God’s justice and mercy will prevail. “My soul magnified the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my savior.”
When we think about our lives, when we think about our ethics, our politics, the way we go about things, when we navigate all of these aspects of our lives, as Christians, we start with Jesus as our guide, Jesus as our expert in all things divine and human, Jesus as the one who leads us in the way of peace. And we so easily forget that the story starts with Mary and that Jesus learned his vision from Mary.