3 Lent A – March 27, 2011 – Harden Not Your Hearts 
Exodus 17:3-7, Psalm 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9, Romans 5:1-2, 5-8, John 4:5-42
Over ten thousand people have died because of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Sadly, some comedians joked about it. Libyan citizens are being shot by their own soldiers. One preacher in this country asked why should we worry about Arabs killing Arabs. Teachers and other workers are losing their jobs in our State. One commentator said, so what. Many aren’t doing their job well anyway.
What do people in other parts of the world mean to us? What does a less fortunate person have to do with our lives? Why should their problems concern us?
Indifference and isolationism in the world is a huge problem. Yvette Alt Miller wrote: “Indifference, bordering on cruelty, is so often the norm. People disassociate [themselves from one another]. Other people become invisible. Our concern for them withers.”  Apathy about the welfare of others harms us as human beings and as Christians. When one person suffers at the hands of injustice, a natural disaster or bad luck all people suffer.
Although scholars doubt it ever happened today’s gospel is a familiar story. John, who worked in Samaria after the resurrection, probably created the story to reach out to the Samaritans in his community.  What purpose does the story have for us today?
Jesus broke the boundaries of cultural traditions and Jewish laws by speaking to a foreign woman and drinking from a cup considered by Jewish law to be impure.  Commonly this gospel is used to remind us that all are welcomed to drink living, life-giving water and that Jesus Christ is that wellspring. That is what we believe. What about the woman? Did Jesus learn anything from her that might also teach us something about our relationships with God and others?
Although the woman is nameless in the story we now know her as Photina, which means light. She is a saint in the Orthodox Church. Was Jesus enlightened by this woman in any way? Both of them were bold in their actions. He spoke to a foreigner but, let’s not forget, so did she. Supposing Photina showed no interest in Jesus? What if she refused his request for a drink for fear of breaking the law? The woman had the same compassion for Jesus that he had for her. Both of them were thirsty just like you and I are thirsty for a life that is dignified and justified. We thirst for a good God just like God thirsts for us to be good people.  God wants all people to share in the gift of life-giving water.
In today’s gospel we learn that being indifferent or insensitive toward others is not a good way to live. Whom do we see in this woman at the well? Do we see a single parent struggling to raise children? Do we see a young child living on the streets? Do we see a drug addict of a different race confined in jail? How do we respond?
In writing about our country’s fiscal problems, David Brooks wrote, “Citizenship, after all, is built on an awareness that we are not all that special but are, instead, enmeshed in a common enterprise.”  We could say that our citizenship in the kin-dom of God is built on love, our care for others. This calling prompts us to give others a drink of fresh, life-giving water when their wells run dry. Indifference has no place in Christianity.
1 From Psalm 95:8, sung during today’s liturgy
2 Miller, Yvette Alt. “Itamar: Why Many Don’t Care” in aish.com. http://www.aish.com/jw/s/Itamar_Why_Many_Dont_Care.html
3 Pilch, John. The Cultural World of Jesus, Sunday by Sunday, Cycle A (Collegeville: Liturgical Press) 1995, 55-57
4 Newsom, Carol and Ringe, Sharon. The Women’s Bible Commentary (London: Westminster John Knox) 1992, 295
5 The idea for this phrase came after reading Kavanaugh, John. The Word Embodied: Meditations on the Sunday Scriptures (Maryknoll: Orbis Books) 1998, 36-39
6 Brooks, David. “The Modesty Manifesto” in The New York Times. March 11, 2011.