Richard S. Vosko

Musings on religion, art and architecture

Homily for March 27, 2011 – Harden Not Your Hearts


3 Lent A – March 27, 2011 – Harden Not Your Hearts [1]

Exodus 17:3-7, Psalm 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9, Romans 5:1-2, 5-8, John 4:5-42

Complete biblical texts for today

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.” [2] 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. [3] 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. [4] 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. [5] 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.” [6] 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

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.


Author: Richard S. Vosko

Richard S. Vosko, Ph.D., Hon. AIA, is an internationally known sacred space planner. He is a presbyter in the Diocese of Albany who enjoys the classroom as much as the pulpit. On Sundays he presides at worship at St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Albany, NY. For more information on Vosko’s background, his projects, publications and speaking engagements please go to his website. For his homilies and occasional musings about religion, art and architecture go to his blog. Comments, questions and suggestions are always welcomed there.

5 thoughts on “Homily for March 27, 2011 – Harden Not Your Hearts

  1. Fr.Vosko,
    Todays homily was one of the best I’ve heard. I was shocked to hear that the late night shows thought it was good laugh about the 10,000 Japanese that were killed. I believe we should help always when we see the need.


  2. Sorry I missed hearing this. Reading it, I have a couple of thoughts. Is our Christology in need of expansion? We were taught when young to see Christ in every person. Now that I am older, believing that Christ consciousness is a reality, are we not able to experience the Christ living in us as also present in the Japanese people, in the Libyan citizens, in the Arabs? We are one world,one people. If the impact of the Japanese nuclear fallout isn’t teaching us that, if Japan’s impact on the US economy isn’t teaching us that, we must be unconscious. Secondly, I gave a lot of thought to the “spring of living water”, which seems to me, to be a metaphor for the Spirit Christ that has been given to each of us to be able to slake the thirst of our brothers and sisters. I may not be able to do extraordinary deeds for the Japanese,and the Libyans, and the Arabs, (save donate $ to CRS), but if I believe in the butterfly effect, which for me is a metaphor for Christ consciousness, then my prayers and thoughts do make some difference in the world. Thanks for your ever-present commitment to preach the true Word.


  3. Jeanne& I are on vacation in Florida but glad to receive and “listen” to your homily. You are right on the mark about indifference in today’s world, and the need for us to be more mindful of the gospel message of love for others and treating all with dignity and compassion. When I go with students from Saint Rose each January to our nation’s capital they are appalled that their are so many working poor and homeless. They come to see over the week that these are individuals and families just like themselves and their families who only want the same out of life They come away with a sense of indignation and return to Albany with a desire to reach out in service. They find that the need exists in our city also, and find ways to live the gospel message. If only more of us could understand that we are all children of God deserving of love and dignity.


  4. At a time when many are thinking about the role of women in the church, it is fascinating to consider how the central elements of the Christian faith were first revealed to women — the Samaritan woman at the well learning from Jesus that he was the Messiah, and Mary Magdalene being first to see the resurrected Christ. (Father Vosko, you may have homilized about this in the past.) Perhaps we — hierarchy and laity, traditionalists and reformers — need to think more about what this means.


  5. I have often wondered how Jews at the time of Jesus differentiated between transgressing the Law of Moses and sinning. Would they have considered it a sin to use a Samaritan cup, for example. If so, how do we get the teaching that Jesus was without sin? Even if this particular scene is not historically based, there are plenty of others that beg the same question.


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