“CHANGED FOR GOOD” (Lk 24:13-35): 06 April 2008 (Third Sunday of Easter)

“CHANGED FOR GOOD” (Lk 24:13-35):  06 April 2008 (Third Sunday of Easter)

Today’s Readings

Reading the story of Emmaus reminds me of a song from the hit Broadway musical “Wicked,”  a refreshingly new take on “The Wizard of Oz.”  The song is called “For Good” and is sung by—of all people—two witches!   In the musical, Glinda and Elphaba (better known as the “Good Witch” and the “Wicked Witch of the West,” respectively) are the best of friends who have to part ways.  Together they sing this song of goodbye and talk about how their friendship has made a difference in their lives.  

The refrain—which probably has the best lines in the song—goes this way:

“Like a comet pulled from orbit as it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder halfway through the wood
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
Because I knew you, I have been changed for good.”

This Sunday’s gospel is about two ex-disciples having what young people would call an “emo” moment as they make their way to Emmaus.  Their leader has just been executed in the most brutal way, and as a result, all their hopes for a better world have been dashed.  “We had hoped…,” they say to each other sadly and wistfully.  And so, while their companions in Jerusalem go into hiding, they have decided to pack up and go back home.  “It was good while it lasted,” they must have told each other.  But now it’s going to be “back to business as usual.”  Or so, they thought.

As we know, a stranger joins them in their journey home, and of course, it is the Lord incognito.  The Lord keeps them company.  He listens to them.  Using Scripture, he helps them make sense of the trauma they have just been through.  And it is only at the end of the day, when he breaks bread with them, that they recognize who the stranger is.  As soon as they do, he disappears, and they rush back to Galilee to share the news with the other disciples, only to find out that like them, they have also already encountered the Risen Lord.

Easter is about God pulling surprises.  Just when the disciples begin to think it’s going to be “back to business as usual,” the Lord pulls the rug from under their feet to tell them that it isn’t exactly quite over yet.  Even after the crucifixion and in fact, especially after it, there’s still work to do:  still so many lives to heal and a whole world to change.  And although the Lord is no longer going to be among them in the usual way, he will continue to be present in a way even more real and more powerful.

But the disciples learn something more:  Whether they know it or not, and whether they like it or not, because they have known the Lord, they have been permanently changed.  Never again will they hear the words of Scripture without their hearts burning, as the two disciples have experienced on their way to Emmaus.  Never again will they look at anyone breaking bread without remembering the One who has offered Himself as Bread to be broken for all.  In fact, never again will they see the world or anyone–especially any stranger–in the same way.  As the song puts it, they have been “changed for good.”

For a growing number of people, Holy Week is the time of the year reserved for spiritual renewal.  While many others take advantage of the long weekend to head for the beach, more and more people are attending the spiritual activities organized by schools and especially by parishes.  Last Holy Week, I gave a three-day recollection to alumni, students, and faculty of Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro.  I was impressed by the people’s great thirst for God’s Word and their sincere desire to find Him in their lives.

But what happens after Holy Week?  Most of us are tempted to do what the Emmaus disciples did:  To pack up and to return to “business as usual.”   Someone once compared attending Sunday Mass to the airport security procedure of going through the metal detector and the X-ray machine:  Before checking in, we remove our shoes, our belt, coins, and everything else that we usually carry around with us in order to go through the metal detector.  But once we’ve successfully stepped through it, what do we do?  We immediately put everything back on.

Going through Sunday Mass—and going through Holy Week, for that matter—can be like that, too:  Once we step out of the church, and once we end our Holy Week retreats, complete our Visita Iglesias and Stations of the Cross, and attend the liturgical services, we put everything back on, and if we’re not careful, we may actually end up “going back to business as usual.”

Today’s gospel message is that whether we know it or not, and whether we like it or not, it can’t be “back to business as usual.”  As the song puts it, because we’ve known the Lord, we have been “changed for good.”

But remember, while the Lord has changed us for good, it is up to us to make sure we change for the better.

(image:  “Wicked” logo)

Note:  If you wish to watch a video clip of Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth rehearsing the song “For Good,” click here.

FOR GOOD
(From “Wicked”)

(Elphaba):
I’m limited
Just look at me – I’m limited
And just look at you
You can do all I couldn’t do, Glinda
So now it’s up to you
For both of us – now it’s up to you…

(Glinda):
I’ve heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true
But I know I’m who I am today
Because I knew you…

Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good

(Elphaba):
It well may be
That we will never meet again
In this lifetime
So let me say before we part
So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you
You’ll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have re-written mine
By being my friend…

Like a ship blown from its mooring
By a wind off the sea
Like a seed dropped by a skybird
In a distant wood
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
[For Good lyrics on http://www.metrolyrics.com]

But because I knew you

(Glinda):
Because I knew you

(Both):
I have been changed for good

(Elphaba):
And just to clear the air
I ask forgiveness
For the things I’ve done you blame me for

(Glinda):
But then, I guess we know
There’s blame to share

(Both):
And none of it seems to matter anymore

(Glinda):
Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood

(Elphaba):
Like a ship blown from its mooring
By a wind off the sea
Like a seed dropped by a bird in the wood

(Both):
Who can say if I’ve been
Changed for the better?
I do believe I have been
Changed for the better

(Glinda):
And because I knew you…

(Elphaba):
Because I knew you…

(Both):
Because I knew you…
I have been changed for good…

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