When we hear the radical call of Jesus, “follow me!”, we know that we must give everything. Fears can rise in our hearts. Will I lose too much? How will my life be secure? Will I be left miserable? These fears must have assailed the rich young man in the gospel. In those early days, I also felt them in my own heart. In embracing Christ radically am I cutting out legitimate options? Am I being doomed to a narrow existence that will stultify my spirit and limit my potential? These fears must be addressed. They are deeply felt by many, but in reality they are an illusion. At the funeral Mass of Pope John Paul II, Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, spoke beautifully of the life of John Paul II. He referred to when, as a young priest, Karol Wojtyla was called to be a bishop. It meant leaving many things that were dear to him – his academic career, his engagement with young people, and his involvement in the arts. All of this must have seemed like losing his very self, losing what had become the human identity of this young priest. The Cardinal pointed out that John Paul II never wanted to make his life secure, or to keep it for himself; he wanted to give of himself unreservedly until the last moment for Christ and for others. However, in making the sacrifice at that time in his life, Karol Wojtyla found that everything he had given over into the Lord’s hands came back to him in a new way – his love of words, of poetry, of literature, became essential in his new ministry as a bishop, and then as Pope, and gave new vitality, urgency and attractiveness to his preaching of the gospel.

In his inaugural Papal Mass, Pope Benedict took up this theme again. Addressing young people in particular he asked “Are we not afraid in some way? If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, if we open ourselves totally to him, are we not afraid that he might take something away from us? Are we not afraid to give up something significant, something unique, something that makes life so beautiful? Do we not risk ending up diminished and deprived of our freedom?” Then he continued, insisting that when we give everything to Jesus we lose absolutely nothing of what makes life truly free, beautiful and great. Only in opening wide the doors of the heart to Christ do we find everything that is truly human! He added: “And so, today, with great strength and great conviction, on the basis of long personal experience of life, say to you, dear young people: Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ – and you will find true life. Amen.

An extract from “A Radical way of Love” by Fr Ken Barker