In the spring of 2013 I was privileged to go on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land with two priest friends. We decided to take a ride up Highway 90 in Israel to the site of the ancient city of Caesarea Philippi, the site of the powerful interaction between Jesus and Peter in today's gospel. As we drove to the Golan Heights region, dangerously close to the border with Syria, already in the midst of a destructive civil war, troop transports and military vehicles surrounded us on the highway. One of the priests on the trip began to get nervous, asking to turn around, while the other was blissfully unaware as he took in the sights of Jesus' home country.
When we arrived at the site we found, on the other side of a mountain from Syria, families all around us hiking and enjoying picnic lunches. The ruins of Caesarea Philippi now sit within the beautiful Hermon Stream Nature Reserve. It was a fitting setting to reflect on St. Peter, the future Pope and leader of the fledgling Church first announcing his faith in Jesus as Christ, the Son of God and on, as we hear in Matthew's gospel, Jesus proclaiming him the rock upon which he would build his Church. It was and is a reminder to me that even amidst the darkest and most challenging moments and places, faith can flourish and bring us peace and light.