Reflection for the Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Divine Dialogue of God with the Soul


I once had a spiritual director who, when she and I would meet to talk about things that matter, would begin by asking, ‘Sister, how’s your love life?’

It would choke me up every time. I knew she was asking me about my relationship with God, and that the question came from a place deep in her soul because she understood that, really, nothing else matters. But I struggled every time to find the words. Sometimes there were more tears than words. But I loved those encounters with her.


Sister would listen with her heart while I talked mostly about my prayer life. I was young, not many years in religious life, and was trying on different styles of prayer to find the one that I thought would ‘fit’ me. Sometimes the conversation was taking place after a long month of praying in ways that seemed to go nowhere. Other times I was pleased to be able to share with her some ‘success stories’ about times of prayer that brought me great consolation, leading me to think I had reached the heights of holiness (I say this to my greater shame). Usually she said very little, but as I bared my soul to this wonderful guide who knew just how to draw me into self-knowledge without embarrassing me, I gradually came to understand what prayer was about.


I think of those long-ago conversations about ‘my love life’ each time I read the Gospel passage we hear today, Luke 10:38-42. It’s the story of Martha and Mary receiving Jesus into their home for dinner. You remember it. Martha was busy in the kitchen preparing (probably) a gourmet meal for the Lord, while Mary was sitting on the floor at His feet, listening to Him. After a while, Martha came in from the kitchen, and basically asked Jesus to puh-leeze! send Mary into the kitchen to help her, so they could both come back when supper was ready to be close to Jesus together.


One can’t blame Martha, who must have loved Jesus very much, for being upset with her sister who was taking for herself the privilege of spending quality time with Jesus while Martha was doing all the work. Yet Jesus answers this frazzled cook (and I paraphrase), ‘Don’t be worried and anxious about dinner. Mary is doing something far more important.’


Strange words, coming from the gentle Jesus. Scripture scholars have long been trying to interpret exactly what Jesus meant by them, and I certainly can’t say for certain myself. But what I do know is that Jesus was showing approval of Mary’s simple gesture of sitting at His feet, listening.


Sitting and listening. That’s a sure sign of a good love life, don’t you think? No special gifts need to be brought to this relationship–for after all God invites us to a relational life with Him–but only making time and space to be together.


This Gospel helped me realize through my encounters with my gentle spiritual director that setting aside time to be present to each other is gift enough for Jesus and for me. Presence. That’s the reality of prayer. No studied formula, no pattern of steps 1, 2, and 3. Early on and into our golden years our love life can be measured through our prayer, if you will, by the way Jesus finds us sitting at His feet so we can listen to one another’s heart beat.


Now, that’s love. And that’s real life.


God bless you. And thanks for letting me share this story with you.


“With Mary, our lives continually proclaim the greatness of the Lord and the joy experienced in rendering service to Him.”

Holy Rule

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