Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith--being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire--may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:3-9) [NRSV]
How extraordinarily fitting, that this particular passage from the first letter of Peter should be one of the texts for tomorrow, as Pope John Paul II, today's "Peter," the rock upon which Christ has built his church, passes from this world to the next.
I haven't been here for awhile. Life often catches up with me early in the year, and I tend to miss much of Lent as I contend with what seems like the endlessness of winter. I usually emerge from my mental cave just in time for Easter, and then retreat again almost immediately as the clouds and snow return (which they have done with a vengeance this morning).
This year has been a bit different. While winter made its inevitable journey through the northern hemisphere, my stepmother was making a pilgrimmage of her own as cancer invaded her body. One morning a few weeks ago, I sat with her for the last half- hour of her earthly life. It was the first time that I had been with someone at the end of this journey. There were no trumpets, no angels, no mists in the wee hours of the morning. Her face did not break into recognition as she made the transition, and the room did not fill with light.
But as I sat there, as she died and for quite awhile afterward, I was sure that I was in another dimension of existence, somewhere between this world and another one. It was a powerful experience of place and not-place, of time and not-time.
It was indeed a sense of an entryway into an "imperishable inheritance", a passageway under the "protection of the power of God." The Pope must be in that place now, "receiving the outcome of a faith" that has supported one of the strongest voices of our time.