The Lord’s message, through Moses, was to “take no revenge and cherish no grudge . . . love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). We might think, “Great in theory, but not always realistic!”
Then Jesus in today’s Gospel goes even further. Take a slap in the face and then turn the other cheek? Treat enemies the same as friends? Again, we’re tempted to think that those are nice ideals, but not very practical in the “real world.”
Paul echoes Jesus when he tells the Corinthians that what passes for human wisdom is absurdity to God. Divine wisdom casts sunshine on the good and the bad, showers rain on the honest and the dishonest—without distinction. We must examine our wisdom and common sense to see how they compare to the wisdom of God, and make adjustments accordingly.
In brushing up for “Catholic Jeopardy,” it might help to know that there is only one feast on the calendar for a thing, rather than a person or mystery. It’s for a chair: Saint Peter’s chair in fact.
After the Resurrection, there can be no doubt that the disciples reserved a special place for Simon Peter in the upper room. Later, Peter became the bishop of Antioch in today’s Syria, the place where we were first called “Christians.” From there, he went to Rome, the center of the Empire, where it is said that Peter sat in a chair in the house of Priscilla and Aquila to instruct his flock. Jesus, in entrusting the keys of the Kingdom to Peter and his successors, entrusted his compassion and mercy to them, and charged them with pointing to the Kingdom of God. Compassion and mercy are to resonate through their teaching.
Since the ancient sign of a teacher is the chair (“disciple” literally means one who sits at the feet of a teacher), Peter’s chair has long been treasured. Today there is a symbolic shrine of Peter’s chair above the main altar of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. This monument is the last work of Bernini, a huge bronze throne supported by four doctors of the Church: Augustine and Ambrose from the Western Church, and Chrysostom and Athanasius from the East. High above it is the alabaster window of the descent of the Holy Spirit.
A Prayer to the Spirit
Realize above all that you are in God's presence ... empty yourself completely and sit waiting, content with the grace of God, like a chick who tastes nothing and eats nothing but what its mother gives it. - St. Romuald
A Prayer to the Holy Spirit
Spirit of Jesus, poured out in flames of fire upon your disciples on the day of Pentecost, we pray to you.
Set afire the hearts of your faithful so that they will announce in all the languages of the world the wonders of the salvation of God.