Problems & Power
How do we solve problems?
The normal methods of problem solving involve some type of domination or accumulation. In so many of the problems in our lives and in our world we either seek to dominate and “deal with” the source of the problem or we protect ourselves from the problem through accumulation of whatever we need to keep the problem at bay.
Think about social problems. If we have a national enemy then we find ways to dominate and often kill them. So many of our problems are labeled “wars” such as the war on drugs or the war on poverty. Our solution is to dominate and destroy the source of the problem.
Think about about personal problems. If we have worries about our future or our family often the solution is to accumulate. We accumulate money, goods, and possessions to deal with any problem that we might face. Consider this pandemic and how the reaction of so many was to hoard things like hand sanitizer, food, or paper products.
This is the wisdom of the world. Domination and accumulation are precisely about power. They are two “sides to the same coin” of power. Yet in the Christian faith we hold that the ultimate expression of power was the Cross of Jesus. The cross is the opposite of domination. The Cross is weakness and being dominated. The cross is the opposite of accumulation. Rather it is Jesus giving everything away and dying naked and alone with his apostles fleeing from him.
You see, I believe that in the cross we see a different type of power. So often we think that divine power will be just like how humans do power. Divine power is a totally different type of power. Divine power isn’t just a more powerful version of human power, though that is often how many Christians talk about divine power.
God’s power is the power of love. Here it is important not to fall into sentimentalism nor romanticism. Divine love is neither sentimental nor romantic. Divine love is complete self-sacrifice. Divine power is the opposite of domination and accumulation. Divine power (power and love here are synonymous) is total self-gift. The way that God deals with the brokenness of this world is through love not domination nor accumulation.
This form of power is so strange to us humans that we have an incredibly difficult time getting our imaginations to comprehend it. Well... until now. this is the first time in my life when our entire society seems to understand and practice the works of self-sacrifice as the only solution to a problem. We are all sacrificing something to find our way through this current pandemic. Some are simply sacrificing their mobility and normal life by staying at home. Others are sacrificing their time, talent, health, and lives confronting the pandemic as essential workers and health care professionals.
For the first time we are finally seeing that self-sacrifice for and love of others is the only real solution to problems. This is the wisdom of divine power. Think of all the problems of poverty, violence, injustice, inequality, war, sickness, and brokenness and see that the sham of domination and accumulation does not really solve any of these problems, no matter how hard we try. Domination and accumulation only created the problem to begin with or they certainly make them worse. Divine wisdom, our current experience, and the power of the Cross is the only way for our world to truly fix our problems, all of our problems. The illusive secret to fixing the brokenness of our world is self-sacrifice and love.
My hope and prayer is that as we are sacrificing so much to get through this pandemic that when the crisis has finally passed we won’t forget this lesson. Only love and self-sacrifice can truly fix the problems of this world.
Father Peter Tremblay has been the Associate Chaplain for Catholic Life since 2016. He is a member of the Franciscan religious community and was ordained a Catholic Priest in 2012. Peter served as an associate pastor at St. Paul Church in Kensington, CT as well as a theology and philosophy teacher at Archbishop Curley High School in Baltimore, MD.
Peter earned a Masters of Divinity degree from the Washington Theological Union in 2011. He works hard to advance the multifaith work of the Truitt Center especially Jewish and Catholic interfaith activities.