How Green Tomatoes Made Me Think Of Original Sin, the Eucharist, and Hope

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Not my tomatoes.  Mine don’t look nearly that good.

That’s when things got theological.I was making green tomato pickles the other day, a new experiment forced by a motherload of small green tomatoes and a dying sun.  Green tomatoes are humble little creatures, to put it mildly.  I love them fried, but these were too tiny to fry in nice big slices.  So I got on the internet and voila: green tomato pickle recipes.

(Admittedly, with me, it doesn’t take much.)

I pulled out ingredients in this recipe to make rag tag leftover inedible fruits into something my hungry kids would eat, and the first ingredient: water with salt.  In our case, blessed salt.  Hmmm.

Add the washed inedible throwaway fruit.  Some peppercorns and garlic cloves for a kick.

Then throw in a generous number of mustard seeds.  As in “The kingdom of heaven is like.”

Submerge fruit.  Cover.  Wait.

Aha. Transformation.

When we are baptized–submerged–with the water and exorcised with the salt, the kingdom of God is introduced.  It is tiny, perfect, round like a mustard seed.  But seeds don’t stay seeds.  They change things.

In the case of the green tomato, something stunted becomes something wonderful–crunchy, tart, well-loved.

In the case of us…maybe we’re still waiting to find out.  But reminding ourselves that we humble, stunted with sin creatures are submerged in God’s transforming work, for his Kingdom, is a good thing.  We take on flavor of the salt, the water, the Kingdom.  Until one day, we are fully changed.

***

One thing I haven’t talked about regarding the Theology of the Body is eating.  There is a lot to work with there, too.  Emily Stimpson addresses food and eating and sacramentality in These Beautiful Bones, and Mary DeTurris Poust doesn’t address John Paul II’s Theology of the Body perspective explicitly, but does excellent reflection on the subject of defining true desires in Cravings: a Catholic Wrestles with Food, Self-Image, and God.  The end of a blog post is not the place begin considering that huge subject.  But the same week, while I’m making pickles, there is a mission at a local parish, and I attend.  It is on eucharistic adoration (and what I was able to attend was great).  The two priests giving the mission gave talks on the theology of eucharistic adoration, how to pray with Scripture at adoration, the saints’ recourse to it, etc.

But one piece of it struck me hard, and it was this: “Why does anyone think it is crazy that our Lord would veil himself through the appearance of bread?  He wants to save us from our first parents’ choice to eat veiled death!  He does this crazy thing to tempt us to take in life, for life, eternal life.  He gives himself to us in the most natural manner we can accept–almost everyone on earth knows how to eat.  It is a necessity.  We must eat to live.  He needs to give us the medicine of veiled Life, the veiled Christ.  There is no trickery.  He tells us flat out: This is my body; this is my blood.  There was little trickery for Adam and Eve: they knew what they were doing was wrong, God said they would die is they ate it.  The veil is no trick at all, but it is a bit of a test: do you believe God’s word or not?  In the Gospel of John, chapter 6, Jesus announces “I am the true bread, come down from heaven…whoever eats this bread will live forever.”  And people grumbled, disciples left Jesus (keep in mind this comes right after the multiplication of the loaves and Jesus walking on water–and some left anyway)–and Jesus turns to the twelve, and asks ‘will you also leave?'”

It was the one word from the Son of God that some could not trust…could not handle the mystery of it…God wants to give you life, wants to save you from an inheritance of death,  But you will have to trust him and eat what he points to–his body and blood, true bread and true drink.

Angels can’t do that.  They are entirely spiritual beings.  But humans can.  It is a gift of our embodiment, that we can share in God in this act of communion and trust.

Well, back to the stunted green tomatoes, rescued from the creeping frost.  The green tomatoes aren’t veiled anything…just an extended metaphor of an overly theological cook.  But trust God to transform.  What looks hopeless may change remarkably with water, salt, and the Kingdom of God tucked into it.  The Lord indeed works in mysterious ways.

 

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