In case you missed it, over the last two weeks there has been much discussion about the so-called ‘slap heard around the world’ which occurred at the recent Academy Awards, otherwise known as the Oscars, in the United States.
In fact, many who witnessed the physical assault by American actor Will Smith on show host, comedian Chris Rock believed it was part of a skit only to realise it was not, based on the profanity-laced tirade by Smith which followed.
The slap came after Rock made a joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, who has shaved her head after hair loss from alopecia, an autoimmune disorder.
The slap went viral as expected, so much so it has already entered modern language. Recently, an Opposition Member of Parliament in St Vincent and the Grenadines threatened another MP with a ‘Chris Rock Special’.
We’ve all been slapped at some point in our lives. Years ago, a newborn was slapped on the buttocks. Thankfully, that practice has stopped.
According to US-based The Pillar, confirmands received a ‘confirmation slap’ during the Rite of Confirmation. Traditionally, the bishop delivering a light slap on the cheek to the newly confirmed Catholics. The confirmation slap recalled the apostles’ laying on of hands and was a reminder to the newly confirmed that they were expected to suffer for the faith.
While not an official part of the rite, the symbolic gesture—which was often more of a gentle tap—persisted in tradition until the Second Vatican Council, after which the rite was revised, and mention of the slap was removed.
The Fra Angelico Institute for Sacred Art reports “Stories have come down through the centuries that St Nicholas of Myra, a faith-filled bishop, decided to defend Sacred Tradition and the Scriptural interpretation of the reality of Jesus as the Son of God the Father. The story relates that he not only vigorously defended Sacred Tradition but became so worked up that during one of the debates he slapped the author of this heresy which was called Arianism.”
And many may have forgotten Pope Francis slapping a woman’s hand who grabbed him and pulled him off balance at a New Year’s Eve event in 2019 in St Peter’s Square.
But coming back to The Slap. The event left many amazed that such a thing could happen. Last year in his Palm Sunday homily, Pope Francis reflected on what should truly amaze Catholics.
He said, “Jesus leaves us amazed. His people give Him a solemn welcome, yet He enters Jerusalem on a lowly colt. His people expect a powerful liberator at Passover, yet he comes to bring the Passover to fulfilment by sacrificing Himself. His people are hoping to triumph over the Romans by the sword, but Jesus comes to celebrate God’s triumph through the cross. What happened to those people who in a few days’ time went from shouting ‘Hosanna’ to crying out ‘Crucify Him’? What happened? They were following an idea of the Messiah rather than the Messiah. They admired Jesus, but they did not let themselves be amazed by Him.”
He continued, “Amazement is not the same as admiration. Admiration can be worldly, since it follows its own tastes and expectations. Amazement, on the other hand, remains open to others and to the newness they bring. Even today, there are many people who admire Jesus: He said beautiful things; He was filled with love and forgiveness; His example changed history, … and so on. They admire him, but their lives are not changed. To admire Jesus is not enough. We have to follow in His footsteps, to let ourselves be challenged by Him; to pass from admiration to amazement.”
During this coming Holy Week, let us lift our eyes to the cross, in order to receive the grace of true amazement and not be distracted by worldly events – like a slap.