Today before Mass I was reading in my “Give Us This Day” booklet the section titled: “Blessed Among Us.” Usually that section is about a well known saint, or someone who is Blessed or Venerable, sometimes well known, and others more obscure.
Today’s section however was about a woman of Valor named Rachel Held Evans. Ever heard of her? I certainly had not. Though I wish I had known her. She was born in 1981 and died in 2019. So, she is someone from our own time. I googled her and learned that she was a Christian writer, blogger, and a member of the Episcopal Church. She was a wife and mother of two small children, three and one years old at the time of her death. She was only 37 years old. It seems she was admitted to the hospital with flu like symptoms, had an allergic reaction to antibiotics and ended up in an induced coma with swelling on the brain. She never recovered.
Rachel Evans grew up in Dayton, Tennessee and struggled to reconcile her evangelical faith upbringing with her own questing of mind and heart. She said: “I have come to regard with some suspicion those who claim that the Bible never troubles them. I can only assume this means they haven’t actually read it.”
What caught my eye and certainly resonated with me was what was written about her. The passage said that “in a series of books and blog posts she became an outspoken advocate for Jesus’ spirit of “outrageous compassion,” inclusivity, and empowerment of marginalized voices.” She sounds like a Providence person to me! Isn’t that what we Providence people seek to be when we talk about being the face of Providence in our world today? How are we living that spirit of “outrageous compassion?” Whom do we let in? How are we a voice for the voiceless? Whom do we invite to our tables?
Rachel Held Evans certainly challenges us to live our faith with greater courage, integrity, and joy. I end with this quote of hers: “This what God’s kingdom is like: a bunch of outcasts and oddballs gathered at a table, not because they are rich or worthy or good, but because they are hungry, because they said yes. And there’s always room for more.” As we continue to celebrate the Easter season, may we ponder how we are following Jesus’ spirit. Rest in peace, Rachel, and thank you for your living witness of Jesus.
Barbara McMullen, CDP