Are you what you can be?

Al Cariño
January 19, 2003
Reproduced with Permission

A story is told of a traveling portrait painter who stopped in a small village hoping to get some business. The town drunk - ragged, dirty and unshaved - came along. He wanted his portrait done and the artist complied. He worked painstakingly for a long time, painting not what he saw but what he envisioned beneath that disheveled exterior. Finally, he presented the painting to his customer. "That's not me," he shouted. The artist gently laid his hand on the man's shoulder and replied, "But that's the man you could be."

This story may be the story of many of us - the story of unfulfilled potentials. In today's first and third readings, we see the opposite - three stories of fulfilled potentials.

First there was Samuel. He was the son of a barren woman who in her old age gave birth to him in answer to her prayer. After he was weaned, she brought him to the temple to be reared by the priests, in particular, by Eli, the high priest (1 Sam. 3:3-10,19).

When Samuel grew up to be a young man, Eli was already advanced in age. Though blind, he could still hear. Samuel took care of him. One evening while asleep, Samuel heard a voice calling for him. Thinking it was Eli who was calling, he went to his room and inquired what he needed. Eli responded that he did not call and told him to go back to sleep. Later, Samuel heard the voice again and as before he went to Eli. It was then that Eli told Samuel that if he heard the voice again, he should respond, "Speak, for your servant is listening." Samuel did precisely that when he heard the voice again. The voice was God's. Thus began his "career" as the last of the great judges of Israel and its first king-maker.

We also see something similar in the gospel reading (Jn. 1:35-42). One day, while John the Baptist was with two of his disciples, he said as Jesus walked by, "Behold, the Lamb of God." Thereupon, the two, one of whom was Andrew, followed Jesus. When Jesus asked them what they were seeking, they answered, "Teacher, where are you staying?" He answered "Come, and you will see." So they went and stayed with him that day.

We don't know what the two disciples saw and heard during their one day stay with Jesus. But when Andrew met his brother Simon later, he told him, "We have found the Messiah." He then brought him to Jesus and on seeing him, Jesus said, "You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Peter (Rock)."

It is easy to see that there are common elements in the three stories above. It was Eli the high priest who was instrumental in Samuel's discovery and acceptance of his vocation. It was John the Baptist who was instrumental in Andrew's discovery of Jesus as the Messiah and becoming one of Jesus' first apostles. Finally, it was Andrew who was instrumental in Peter's becoming not only an apostle but also the "Rock" upon which Jesus founded His Church.

Moreover, the three became what they were because they responded positively to God's call after it was made known to them and persevered in it. If they had not done so, then they could have become just any other human being who came into the world and died without making any contribution to others or to the community they grew up in. Or they could have become like the drunk in our story above who wasted his life away instead of becoming what he could be as portrayed by the painter.

When we reflect on the beginnings of our Christian faith, many of us can point out to certain people, incidents or events that led us to Jesus. They can be our parents who taught us about Him from our childhood and who as we grew up lived according to Jesus' teachings in thought, word and deed in their quiet way. They can be people who are bedridden or suffering from a chronic illness yet continue to put their trust in God as they fingered their rosary beads thus remaining cheerful, kind and considerate despite everything. Or it can be a good deed done to us by someone we do not even know or something we have heard or read or an event that happened to us which made us reflect on what life is all about thus leading us to start or even restart our journey of faith.

In short, before we got to know Jesus, there were a litany of people, incidents and events that came our way who\which enabled us to know and accept Him in faith. In fact, this is the story of how Christianity spread throughout the world and how we accepted it in our own time.

God revealed His grand plan of salvation for each one us in and through His Son Jesus. Having accepted Jesus, have we become the person we can be by living up to His teachings and examples? Have we also become instrumental in bringing another person to meet and accept Jesus in faith?