Healthy organic foods, physical health centers, taking various vitamin pills, exotic vacation resort getaways, and many others are all attempts to maintain good bodily health. No doubt, all of this can be good for this simple reason: our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we should be responsible guardians and custodians of this gift of our body that God has in His generosity given to us.
However, there often exists this error: we place the needs of the body over those of the soul and this is a wrong hierarchy of values. The words of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ teaches this truth: “What would it profit a man to gain the whole world and to lose his soul. What can a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mk 8:36-37)
Avoid the Damage
On a human and natural level, we should make a concerted effort to avoid that which could damage our body. Good parents have taught this to their children from the start. Do not play with fire… look twice before you cross the street… do not hang out with bad companions… eat your vegetables… get to bed on time… brush your teeth before going to bed… wash your hands before you eat… clean your room; cleanliness is next to godliness.
All of the above are common words of advice that parents have given their children for years on end. Let us lift this to a higher supernatural plane and offer advice on how to avoid that which damages our immortal soul, which has more value than the whole created universe! Indeed, we can sin through thought, word, deed, and omission—by not doing what we are required by God to do! Avoiding the near occasion of sin is an indispensable quality in our pursuit of holiness and acquiring the crown of glory that we call eternal life.
1. Avoid Gossip and Gossipers
Jesus says clearly that we will be judged on every word that issues forth from our mouth and He also says that from the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. If we have formed the habit of meeting with people who are perpetual “Gossipers” then make a change; do not frequent this company anymore. Read James chapter 3—excellent chapter in Scripture on the sins of the tongue!
2. Dress Properly
We do not want to be an occasion of sin for others. Our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit from Baptism. Saint Paul reminds us that we are ambassadors of Christ—that means representatives of the Lord of Lords and King of Kings. We should dress accordingly. When we say dress properly we do not mean only in Church, as if it were the only place where we should dress with decorum and modesty, but rather in all times and places. Never forget: we are Christians 24/7—meaning always!
3. Avoid Bad Company in General
Saint Paul says that bad company corrupts morals. The proverb succinctly expresses this truth: Tell me with whom you associate and I will tell you who you are. We do not have to be rocket scientists to know that we tend to imitate our friends and our associates. Pray for the grace to find a friend or two who are really noble, honest, pure, hard-working Christians and you will have discovered a real treasure. Old Testament Wisdom teaches us that to find a true friend is to find a treasure.
4. Wandering Eyes
Another proverb is apropos of this concept: Curiosity killed the cat. Worse yet, the wandering eyes of King David resulted in adultery with Bathsheba, and eventually even killing her husband, the valiant and honest Hittite soldier Urias, (II Samuel 11). The holy man Job asserted: “I have made a pact with my eyes: not to look upon a woman,” (Job 31:1). Finally, Jesus drives the point home with one of the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the pure of heart; they will see God.” (Mt 5:8) In a world abounding with impure images, human and electronic, more than ever do we need to practice strict custody of the senses, especially our eyes!
Another attitude or disposition that we must avoid is that of giving into our impulsivity, in all ways, but especially in speech. A good proverb:Think before you speak. Another somewhat down to earth proverb for those who speak before thinking is the following: Open up mouth, insert foot. Lifted to a more spiritual level Saint James admonishes us: “We should be slow to speak and quick to listen.” Saint Thomas Aquinas offers this important insight: God has given us two ears and one mouth so as to listen twice as much as we speak. Meditate on this before speaking up!
6. Electronic Media
Of paramount importance for all of us who now live in this electronic cosmos is the dire need to pay strict attention over our use of all the present electronics media. “Obviously we would never open up our mouths to shovel in garbage”, Venerable Fulton Sheen once stated, but we can easily be imbibing and absorbing with our eyes moral garbage. A good vomit can release the physical garbage consumed. However, it can take years to expunge and delete ugly images that we have seen from one of the many sources in the modern world of electronic media.
Our mind is a huge archive that stores all of our experiences—all that we have done, as well as all that we have seen. Therefore, we must be very strict with ourselves and with our children in what we bring into our minds and hearts through what we see.
7. Couch-Potato Syndrome!
Another proverb for you: Idleness is the workshop of the devil. In other words, if you don’t have anything to do, then the devil will give you plenty of things to do! Saint John Bosco had a mortal fear of vacation time for the youth—teens! Work is good for all of us. Work perfects our nature; it helps us to cultivate our talents. Work serves as a means of helping others. Work was what God commanded of Adam after Original Sin: “You will earn your bread by the sweat of your brow.” (Gen. 3:19)
8. Mental Laziness
As a follow-up to Number 7—the couch-potato syndrome is the reality of mental laziness. Another youthful slogan: If you don’t use, it you lose it. God has endowed all of us with a mind which He desires that we cultivate. A garden that is not cultivated well quickly grows weeds. A mind that is not cultivated allows for the growth of mental weeds. This mental laziness can be prevented or corrected through the excellent habit of good reading.
We have never lived in a world with so much confusion. However, we have never lived in a world with so much good literature. It is up to us to find good literature and form the habit of reading. Some of our best-friends can be good books. Saint Ignatius received the grace of his conversion by reading good books—the lives of the Saints!
9. Avoid Over-Eating
Gluttony is one of the seven capital sins. Definition of gluttony: It is a disordered desire to eat and drink. Many health problems result from bad eating habits. Also Gluttony, Lust and Laziness often work together as a team to drive us into actual sin. Want a remedy? Here it is! Pray for an authentic hunger for Jesus, The Bread of Life. (Read John chapter 6:22-71—the Bread of Life discourse). In the Our Father we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” This can be interpreted in a sacramental way—the habit of going to daily Mass and receiving Jesus in Holy Communion, the true Bread of Life! He will help us to subordinate the desires of the body to the command of the will.
10. Avoid Contrary Views of Mary
Many Protestants reject vehemently the power of the intercession of Mary, to their own serious spiritual detriment. Mary will never, and I say never, distance us from Jesus. On the contrary, as Saint Louis de Montfort asserts: “Mary is the quickest, safest, and shortest path to Jesus.” If you like, Mary is the SHORT-CUT to union with Jesus. The last words of Mary recorded in Sacred Scripture were spoken at the Wedding Feast of Cana: “Do whatever He tells you.” (Jn. 2:5) No doubt, the best advice in the entire world! Our Lady serves as a bridge to union with Jesus. Listen to the words of the Cure of Ars, Saint John Marie Vianney: “Everything that the Son asks of the Father is granted. Likewise, everything that the Mother asks of her Son is granted.” Saint Ephrem, with his mystical and poetic flare exclaims: “The incomparable Mother of God is the purest golden censer. In her prayers are offered to the Eternal God.” Finally, prayerfully meditate upon the words of Saint Maximilian Kolbe: “Place yourself in Mary’s hands; she will think of everything and provide for the needs of body and soul. Therefore, be at peace, be at complete peace, with unlimited confidence in her.”
In conclusion, it is most true that we must avoid all the dangers that can so easily jeopardize the health of our body, that which pertains to our natural life. However, we should make it a more firm decision on our part, and for the benefit of those entrusted to our care, to avoid all the moral poison that can possibly kill the spiritual life in our souls. May Our Lady attain for us the grace to love God with all of our hearts, minds and souls so that one day heaven will be our perpetual home and perpetual resting place!
Holy Mary, pray for us poor sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
Father Ed Broom is an Oblate of the Virgin Mary and the author of From Humdrum to Holy, which offers more words of wisdom for how to become a saint today. He blogs regularly at Fr. Broom’s Blog. This post originally appeared at Catholic Exchange and is reprinted with permission.