Spiritual Pollution

You are what you eat.

It is spring and planting season has arrived in the garden. This year I find myself facing the additional process of having to turn over the winter cover crop I planted in the beds. Over the winter, I planned out my crop rotation for this season. As the time approaches to plant something in a bed, I need to cut down the rye grass and turn the roots back into the soil. It is a physically demanding chore, made more difficult because I did not pull up the irrigation lines last fall—they are now embedded in rye grass roots! The good news, however, is that while I was turning in the cover crop in the first bed this spring I immediately noticed that the soil was much richer. Only time will tell if that improves the outcomes in the garden.

This winter I relocated my seedling factory to the basement. I have a folding table set up with grow lights hanging underneath it. Trays of vegetable seedlings sit under the bright lights. The first batch of seedlings (snow peas) went out into the garden in late March. When I planted the pea seedlings, I also sowed a row of snow peas adjacent to the seedlings to have a staggered planting. Hopefully that will result in a longer yield of snow pea pods later in the season as the early seedlings stop producing.

When I was watering the peas this week, I noticed a difference between the seedlings from the basement and the new peas that were coming up from the ground. The transplant seedlings were alive and starting to climb the trellis, but they looked a little rough. They were not a deep green—they were light green and yellowish in places. While peas are frost hardy, I know that we had some cold weather the first week I put them out. I had also noticed that the plants growing in the basement just do not look as vibrant as they will outside in the sun.

The pea plants that were coming out of the ground from seed are different. They are only about two inches tall, but they look strong and have a deep green color. They are growing in good soil, in their natural growing conditions outside. They have been exposed to natural sunlight from the start. Their roots are not limited to a little peat pot and potting soil from a bag. It will be interesting to see if the first batch of basement seedlings improve as they grow outside, and also whether the plants have different yields of peas later in the season.

Taking a cue from the Gospels and what I have started learning from gardening, I have written many times about the comparison between gardening and the spiritual life. (For example, Preparing the SoilStarting SeedsRootsAnnual Cycle.) So what am I seeing this spring that is new? As I reflected this week on different results in the two rows of pea plants, I started to focus on the difference between growth in an artificial environment and growth in a natural environment.

We see signs of the effects of an artificial environment in humanity today. It is only in the last 100-150 years of human history that we have had electricity and the industrial revolution. Now, we have pocket-sized supercomputers that occupy hours upon hours of our attention every day. Even back in 2017, we saw signs of the devastating negative influence of cell phones and social media on youth. Some writers are now calling for an end to “cell phone childhood” given the documented rise in psychiatric disorders among the young.

We are all familiar with the adage, “you are what you eat.” My generation is perhaps the second raised on heavily processed and refined foods. The soil has been depleted of minerals and crops are saturated with chemicals. How can we measure the effects of this on humanity? Why did I suddenly come down with celiac (a gluten allergy) in my 40s? What environmental factors, toxicity and stressors contributed to triggering that in my body?

Pea plants need good soil, fresh water and sunlight in order to grow well. Pollution will damage or kill plants. The human body needs good food, adequate nutrition and clean water to prosper. A toxic environment will cause disease and disorder in the body. But we are not only physical beings—we have a spirit. Would not the same principles be true for our spiritual life?

Do we stop and think about the impact of our environment on our spiritual life? Which of it is positive? Which of it is toxic? Are we bathing in spiritual pollution?

What is the natural spiritual environment for a Christian? Each of us is a unique person, with unique spiritual needs. While there are common threads to the Christian spiritual life, we need to pray for the Holy Spirit to give us wisdom and discernment about the best spiritual environment for us.

We should try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Prayerful reflection on the Bible and solid orthodox spiritual reading can help us in this regard. Holy Spirit inspired preaching the Word of God and the Gospel will also form our understanding of the elements of a good spiritual environment for us. The crucible of personal prayer time with the Lord can provide the “Son-light” that we need for life in the Spirit. We can also bathe in the “Son-light” with the Lord truly present in the Blessed Sacrament.

The adage “you are what you eat” also applies to the spiritual life. Receiving Holy Communion, the Body and Blood of Jesus, in the state of grace with reverence and devotion can transform us into the likeness of Jesus. Jesus explained this to us in the Gospel of St. John: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” If we have received Jesus in Holy Communion for ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty or even more years, have we been transformed more and more into the likeness of Jesus in the Spirit?

The Scriptures also educate us on spiritually toxic behaviors. Jesus taught that the sin that comes from within a person defiles him: “What comes out of a man is what defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a man.” The word “defile” means to make unclean or impure. It is synonymous with “pollute.”

Perhaps the most obvious example is sexual sin. We may not think of sexual sin as spiritually harmful, but the Word of God teaches otherwise. In the First Letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul teaches that sexual sins harm our own body: The body is not meant for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. . . . Shun immorality. Every other sin which a man commits is outside the body; but the immoral man sins against his own body. In giving Moses the Law in the Old Testament, the Lord is even more explicit that sexual sins defile us: “Do not defile yourselves by any of these things, for by all these the nations I am casting out before you defiled themselves; and the land became defiled, so that I punished its iniquity, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. . . . So keep my charge never to practice any of these abominable customs which were practiced before you, and never to defile yourselves by them: I am the Lord your God.”

The people we spend time with can be spiritually toxic. Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” He who walks with wise men becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.

What we talk about can also be spiritually toxic. Avoid such godless chatter, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will eat its way like gangrene. Gangrene is a serious condition in which a part of the body begins to decay. Do we want spiritual gangrene?

Practicing occultism or witchcraft, visiting mediums, psychics or astrologers, or attending seances, are all spiritually toxic. Do not turn to mediums or wizards; do not seek them out, to be defiled by them.

The works of the flesh are spiritually toxic. The works of the flesh are plain: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. Gal. 5:19-21.

Spring is a good time for housecleaning. Perhaps it is also a good time to evaluate our spiritual environment. Let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, and make holiness perfect in the fear of God.

I pray that the Holy Spirit would grant you wisdom and discernment as you look for and root out negative spiritual influences in your life. May God give you strength and courage to eliminate spiritual toxins and pollutants from your life in the Name of Jesus!

Eric A. Welter is an employment lawyer and trial attorney with a long-time devotion to intercessory prayer. He is a Catholic Christian who has been involved with intercessory and healing prayer ministry for over twenty years. The Abound in Hope Ministry website is https://www.aboundinhope.org/ministry. This article can be found here.