I read today’s gospel and wondered why St. Matthew made such a point of telling us they had entered the area called, Caesarea Philippi. I went back and checked the other gospels and sure enough, St. Mark made the same distinction before relating the great confession of Simon/Peter. I was also struck thinking it seemed really out of character for Christ to concern Himself with what people thought of Him.
I learned the area of Caesarea Philippi has a cave that once honored the Greek god, Pan. Inside that cave, a spring flows which even today is the largest source of water for the Jordan River, beginning by bubbling over a small thirty-foot waterfall before leaving the cavern and meandering across the desert to the Dead Sea. Christ led His disciples to the head of this stream, which provided the waters John the Baptist had baptized Him with as He began His public ministry. This pagan source of water was transformed in baptizing Christ, who is Himself the source of Living Waters.
Some biblical scholars suggest that the Transfiguration when Jesus revealed Himself in glory to Peter, James and John, may have happened on Mount Hermon which overlooks Caesarea Philippi. Christ and the disciples had been at the foot of that same mount just a week before when Peter made his statement of belief in Jesus.
Because it was so out of character for Jesus to ask what people thought of Him and who He was, we can understand why He asked the question, “Who do people say I am?” The Great Teacher posed the question so Peter could make the most remarkable declaration in the history of mankind: He said, “You are the Christ. The Son of the living God”, with a faith-inspired and revealed by God the Father. On this, the Feast of the Chair of St Peter, we remember the moment that Our Lord rechristened Peter and made him the rock foundation of our faith. St Peter, we beg your intersession in these troubled times. Help us remember that Christ told us that the gates of Hell will not defeat His church.
Heavenly Father, we ask You to protect, defend and revitalize our Faith and Church. Help us gain more vocations, because there cannot be a bountiful harvest without workers in the fields. We ask this in the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Redeemer. Amen
Ray Alonzo is the father of three children, grandfather of two, and husband to Jan for over45 years. He is a USN Vietnam Veteran and a 1969 graduate of Mother of Good Counsel Passionist Prep Seminary. Ray currently serves on the Passionist Alumni Council.