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Rotten Tomatoes, Stick and Stones, & Salsa

Posted: June 17, 2015 | Author: Fr. Leo

The past two blog posts were intentionally edgy. We talked about Caitlyn Jenner and the transgender community, as well as the Duggar Family's child abuse situation.  Peoples' responses have been exciting to read, but also revealing.  It shows that people have something to say.  Some people don't want to talk about challenging topics and would want to "pray away" problems.  Sorry folks, we can't pray away other people's problems, but we can pray about what we can learn from world events.  Some seemingly agree with everything I say just because I'm a priest, but I have news for you: I don't know everything and I truly value your opinions and responses to the questions that I pose at the end of the email blasts!  On the other hand, there are people who disagree with everything I say, simply because they are ant-religious, anti-Christian, or militant Atheists who speak contrary to religion or because they think they know better/everything.  Either way, the discussions and responses have been interesting, to say the least. 

The Grace Before Meals nonprofit group is called The Table Foundation: Elevating Culture and Family Life One Meal at a Time. 
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The dinner discussion, or at times, debate, is one of the reasons I do what I do with the Grace Before Meals movement.  Conversations can lead to conversion! I actually want to hear and read what you have to say. When we engage in healthy (and holy) discussion about topics that affect our modern world - real life stuff - then we can truly learn something about ourselves and others.  

These culinary teachers at Central Market in Dallas, Texas are gracious, humble and professional!

But what happens when people don't want to discuss, but destroy?  They use words, not for conversation but constant criticism.  For example, last week I had to delete the Facebook post that shared last week's post about the Duggar Family.  It was obvious that some people only read the headlines, misinterpreted the point of my blog post, and then began "trolling" by posting inappropriate, vulgar, and offensive comments.  Since Grace Before Meals is a "hate-free" and family friendly social media ministry, I had to delete it. 

Couples who eat together and talk about marriage have stronger marriages!

Yet I didn't want to stop the conversation! While I would certainly prefer that people not use vulgar language, I can take some of it and the feisty tone of the posts.  I can imagine that Jesus, who ate with sinners, probably heard some salty language too.  But when the disagreement becomes insulting and the slander then aims at the destruction of human dignity, then we need to respect each other enough to let silence speak to the heart of the matter.  In the hands of some, words are weapons, and rotten tomatoes become sticks and stones.  

"He who is without sin, cast the first stone"

When people hurl the rotten tomatoes however, I have to turn the other cheek, even though I may rather retaliate!  You see, according my community of Consecrated Life, Voluntas Dei (The Will of God), I make a daily spiritual promise to not complain or criticize destructively. That's pretty tough for a guy like me - as I'm not afraid of the fight.  For me, it takes great prayer on my part not to criticize and characterize the world as filled with crazy people - real fruits and nuts!  Some people may think I am being wishy-washy when I'm not willing to criticize people's sins outright. But it's only because I have a spiritual obligation to try and be compassionate.  That means, understanding a person's suffering, walking with them in their unique and painful situation, and then doing what I can to build them up, not tear them down.  All of this has to be done this way with the intention of bringing people closer to our loving and merciful God.  

So, without trying to preach, I think Christians (and anyone else of different faiths who follow the Grace Before Meals movement) need to remember that while we can possess God's truth, we don't always fully understand the truth, nor do we know how to communicate the truth perfectly. While many people will certainly criticize and destroy, we have grace to change those lemons into lemonade.  We can use words to heal, rather than hurt.  We can turn the other cheek, by opening up our hearts - even if it means we will have our hearts broken at times, just like Jesus'.

Last Friday, we celebrated the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, pierced, but still on fire with love for you and me!

It's been my experience that when someone wants to throw rotten tomatoes or use sticks and stones, grace can teach us to use the tomatoes, sticks and stones and turn it into something good, like salsa!  And if the tomatoes are super moldy and rotten, then bury it in the dirt and trust that God will turn it into compost to help good tomatoes grow.  You see, in God's hands, even the evil intention of people can be transformed into something good. 

Let us pray

Father in heaven, you sent your Word Incarnate, your Son and our Lord Jesus to teach us how to speak with people in a way that leads to conversion. When we face disagreement, teach us how to speak with others in a way to help build each other up.  Help us to not be afraid to tell people our opinions, or to share our faith and beliefs.  Above all, may our words be transformed into Good News and bring people closer to your Table.  We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen. 

New recipe: Rotten Tomato Salsa

Here's a recipe that uses "rotten" tomatoes and even a stick to stir, and a stone to grind ingredients for a salsa.

Click image for recipe!

Food for Thought 

(1)  What method do you use to prevent a disagreement from becoming a full blown argument?
(2)  Is it possible to "learn something" from sinners - like Bruce Jenner, the Duggars, or opposing political parties?
(3)  Are you the type of person who easily criticizes or clams up?  How can we improve our communication skills?

REMINDER: Registration for my special pilgrimage to Spain with Patrick Coffin closes at the end of June.