In these weeks after Easter, I have been reading and reflecting a lot on salvation. What is it about the death and resurrection of Jesus that saves us?
Today, in a most unexpected way, an answer was given to me.
I called my mother this evening for Mother's Day. After the usual well-wishes, she updated me on the hardships she and my father have faced in the last week, a litany that sometimes seems to have no end.
My parents are both well into their eighties. Last night, my father fell once again, this time from his wheelchair when he leaned over to pick up something from the floor. He hit his head and bruised his ribs, adding to the aches he already suffers from his rheumatoid and osteoarthritis.
My father has dementia and a worsening Parkinsonian tremor that makes it difficult for him to do much of anything for himself. My mother, who has her own severe chronic pain, has had many more responsibilities land on her shoulders because she is now the healthier one.
Throughout the 61 years of their married life, both of my parents have been devoutly religious (Catholic). Just in the last month or two, they reached the point where they had to conclude that they could no longer attend church. Even with a van equipped with a wheelchair lift, it was simply too hard.
A handicapped priest comes to their assisted living facility to celebrate liturgy every couple of weeks and a lay minister of the church brings them communion once a week. But for most of their married life, they attended church every day...
My poor, dear sweet parents.
As my mother was recapping events, she mentioned Daniel whom I met when I visited at Christmas. My parents are very fond of Daniel, a young African American nurse who frequently stops in to provide care for my father. While he is there, they often discuss sports since both of my parents are avid fans of almost every Minnesota team.
However, what my mother related today was different - not just the usual chatter between them about how the Twins are looking this spring. Daniel, while trimming my father's nails for him this morning, sang hymns to my parents. My mother couldn't remember most of them, since they were not familiar to her, but my parents joined in on the one or two that they knew.
The vision in my mind of this young black man singing hymns of faith to my frail white parents in the decline of their lives brings tears to my eyes. I see Daniel holding my father's frail hand, steadying its inexorable tremor, singing softly as he works...
"What a friend we have in Jesus..."
No longer do I need to read theological discourse or debate. In my heart, I have seen salvation...and it knows no words.