We have all heard the Gospel passage, “Where your treasure is, there also your heart will be” (Mt 6:21), and the idea seems simple enough. We dedicate time to God, we do the things that are good, and we treat others as Christ would have us treat them. We do many things that are intended to make this world a better place, and this seems to be central to the Gospel. In our doing, we show that our hearts are set on doing God’s will and our treasure will be eternal life.

However, the human heart is a tricky thing. If we are honest with ourselves and we learn to spend time in the quiet of meditation, we soon discover that our intentions are not as pure as we once thought. While we give to the poor and do good deeds, we also seek the approval of others and the recognition we ardently desire. It is not enough to simply do God’s will. We must also receive praise and adulation for how good we are. In this way, our acts of devotion and other external signs of our faith can often be tied to selfishness and egocentricity.

When we come to such self-knowledge, the layers of pride and self-centeredness are beginning to disappear. This kind of knowledge leads to a contrition, a real contrition which is the work of the Holy Spirit. This does not mean that we stop doing the good things we feel called to do. Our lives still bear the same mark of service to God and neighbor. However, as our hearts become purified and we begin to encounter our weakness before sin and temptation, instead of causing dejection, we soon discover the path to true freedom.

This allows us to enter into our works with greater peace and harmony. Before being purified and purged of our egocentricity, often our works are marked by an anxious energy. Our works can seem to bear no fruit despite our consistent efforts. After we are given such freedom, our works seem to bear fruit in unexpected ways. Instead of our jobs, our ministries, and our relationships being sources of frustration, they become sources of inspiration and consolation.

The key is to allow time for the Holy Spirit to do this important work. Self-knowledge is the fruit of heart that has spent time in meditation, and it is gained through patient discipline. If we are not giving time for reflection, our lives will never have the depth of a person who spends time before the Lord. Of course, the amount of time will depend on one’s station in life. After the birth of a child might not be the ideal time to cultivate new spiritual practices. However, we are all called to have intimacy with Jesus Christ, an intimacy that is the fruit of prayer.