The Power of Love

Hank Mattimore
Reproduced with Permission

"Some day, after we have mastered the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we will harness for God, the energies of love. And then, for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire." [Teilhard De Chardin]

For me there is something mesmerizing about these words of the scientist/philosopher and theologian, Teilhard De Chardin. As a scientist of the 20th. Century, he exults in the achievements of science but he points to a greater energy, stronger than nuclear power, greater than anything we have yet been able to tap. He says, "Just wait. We haven't seen anything yet. Just wait until the day comes when we harness the energy of love -- then we will, for the second time in the history of the world, discovered fire. That's pretty powerful stuff.

But wait a second. We already know all about love, don't we? We know exactly what it looks like. Love leaps out at us when we see a mother caressing her newborn; in the way a newlywed couple gaze at one another, in the silent vigil of an old man at the deathbed of his wife. We witness love in the self-sacrifice of a Mother Teresa and in the way people give of themselves and their resources to alleviate the suffering of people in impoverished countries. Love is what makes Moms and Dads put away their savings so that their kids can go to college. Love makes a perfect stranger risk his own life to save the life of a child. It is the glue of long lasting marriages. A silent presence at the birth of a child. Love makes a child pick up a fallen sparrow and try to nurse it back to health. So what does De Chardin mean when he says "Some day we will harness for God the energies of love?"

What I think he is saying is that we are just beginning to understand what love can do in our lives and in our world and we are still a long way from harnessing its energy. We recognize only dimly that we are one body on our planet, one with all living things. Individuals have grasped the interdependence of human kind with one another and with the environment that sustains us, but our human species has yet to "get it." Most of the time we remain children fighting one another over our toys. We still need soldiers and weapons and prisons because we haven't figured out a way to protect ourselves without them. It's still an "us" and "them" world where we fight for survival never quite realizing that it is our brothers and sisters that we fight.

Despite our sad shortsightedness, De Chardin dares to envision a time when we will harness the power of love. When we do, life will never be the same. Just as when our ancient ancestors discovered fire and in doing do changed forever the way they lived, so will it be when we truly understand the power of love. An energy will be released in our lives that will change forever the way we see ourselves and other people and all living things.

Pretty idealistic stuff? Yea, I guess so. As I write this nations war on nations, each claiming that God is on their side, each claiming to be fighting an axis of evil.

We seem to be an awfully long way from discovering that power of love. Yet, the spark is there, within each of us, waiting to be kindled. And every time I read about someone volunteering to mentor a kid, or donating a kidney so that another person may live, I imagine that the spark glows a tiny bit brighter.