One of the Vatican’s most sought-after pilgrimage sites is the “Scavi”—the excavations under St. Peter’s Basilica where the tomb of St. Peter was discovered in the 20th century. Standing in that narrow, cramped space the exchange between Jesus and Peter in today’s gospel comes alive: “Who do you say that I am?” “You are the Christ, the son of the Living God.” With that act of faith, Peter’s life was changed…as was the course of human history.

Later in this gospel passage, Jesus declares: “You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church.” Standing amidst the stones of the Scavi, that promise is literally fulfilled.

Centuries pass and now Pope Francis is the current “rock,” holding the keys of Peter. We are invited today to pray for Pope Francis and the Church of mercy which he shepherds. It is also a good day also to reflect on my personal commitment to the Church as well as my practical willingness to “walk with the poor” as Pope Francis invites.

And I ponder the impact of Jesus’ question in my own personal life: “Who do you say that I am?”

—The Jesuit Prayer Team