There is no worse prison than a closed heart

A full life is to be ready to open your heart to others

This phrase of St. John Paul II resonates in me since I discovered it last October 25, his feast day. It came to me from somewhere, and I have been thinking about it a lot ever since. It’s curious how the saints can appeal to you from heaven and reach directly into your heart. Well, more than curious, I would say amazing, wouldn’t you say?

In these times when freedom is based, among other things, on having no ties and on being super-independent and autonomous, not needing others for anything, this phrase is very topical.

With great respect for the figure of Saint John Paul II and knowing that I am going to remain very short and superficial, I would like to reflect on this.

The person is (we are) a gift, a gift, created by love and for love. A love that is materialised in a relationship and surrender to the other. We are relational beings, made to give ourselves and to meet the other. In need of that other. And there is no “I” without a “you”.

Therefore, we are linked beings who need those links, and there, in that free, chosen link, is freedom. Because to be free is to have to choose.

Today, society tells us that if we want to be free, we must be independent and autonomous and not need anyone. Self-realisation is possible and is based, in turn, on an author-referential attitude where what counts is my well-being and what I feel. This narcissistic “I” seeks only itself and its most immediate pleasure. It is the idolatry of the self.

This detachment from the “you” is unnatural and makes us harden a heart that is made for love and encounter and, therefore, open to others and reality.

This is the origin of what we are currently experiencing in our society: who is going to start a family? Who is going to risk the “yes, I do” for a lifetime? Marriage and family clash directly with this hardened and closed heart.

What does it mean to close one’s heart? Quite simply, to live from the self. It is to focus on my independence and self-sufficiency. It is living at the mercy of my immediate desires and a thirst that I can never quench. Likewise, it is not being open to my vulnerability and limitations. It is to be empty.

And the consequence will be to try to fill that emptiness with many material things. Of many false appearances; of many masks that I will put on to appear to be the happiest and most successful person in the world, but we can insist on trying to fill a broken sack that will never be filled.

For me, that broken sack is the person whose heart is closed. It is that person who, for whatever reason, lives with his or her back turned to his or her nature, to being made for communion with others. We are individual beings, unique and unrepeatable, but at the same time communitarian, made for the encounter with others and with an Other. Another of the consequences of this closed heart is the impossibility of looking up. It is the vital lethargy that numbs the person’s capacity to transcend and to look beyond, and that makes it impossible for you to meet God, your father, your creator.

If you as an individual can do everything and can give happiness to yourself, why do you need to look up?

We can try to fill our lives with successes, pats on the back from others, recognition, money, material things, and superfluous pleasures …. but we will always be empty. The sack will never be filled. The thirst will never be quenched.

These days, we have witnessed a living and current example of this existential emptiness. And there is nothing like a witness “with legs”. I am referring to Daddy Yankee. A well-known Puerto Rican singer who, in his last concert in front of thousands of people, has made some statements that have left many of us open-mouthed:

“Someone could carry that emptiness that I felt for a long time…… I was able to travel the world for years and win many awards, applause, and accolades, but I realised something that the Bible says What good is it for a man to gain the whole world if he loses his soul? That is why, tonight, I acknowledge and am not ashamed to tell the whole world that Jesus lives in me and that I will live for Him”.

If you haven’t seen him, I recommend you look him up on networks and listen to him. There is nothing like an incarnate testimony.

A full life is not a perfect life. A full life is a life shared and given to Love and service to others. A life lived today, doing what is possible today, putting at the service of society those talents received to make this world a better place.

A full life is to be ready to open your heart to others, to make way for them, and to allow them to hurt you. It is knowing that you are vulnerable and limited and living that way, but knowing that you are very beautiful and valuable because your life has meaning.