The sermon given by the American Episcopalian Bishop Michael Curry at last Saturday’s royal wedding in St George’s Chapel, Windsor, was rather like marmite – you either loved it or hated it! Despite the uncomfortable expressions on the faces of many of the senior Royals it has since emerged that many, many people loved it, as much for Bishop Michael’s style of delivery as for the sermon’s content. Someone posted on line – “He took us all to church – to a black church – and it was clear that for many this was a first-time experience!”
Bishop Michael took as his theme the “redemptive power of love” urging his listeners to discover for themselves the power of love to make of “this old world a new world”. “There’s power in love” he said. “There’s power in love to help and heal when nothing else can. There’s power in love to lift up and liberate when nothing else will. There’s power in love to show us the way to live.”
Quite rightly Bishop Michael’s words were aimed first and foremost at Prince Harry and his beautiful bride who now enjoy the titles of Duke and Duchess of Sussex. “The power of love is demonstrated by the fact that we’re all here” said Bishop Michael. “Two young people fell in love and we all showed up!” Yet I found my mind wandering (as it often does) away from the events in St George’s Chapel – beautiful though they were – as I started to reflect upon the impact of love in my own life. The love of my parents and family; the love of my many friends; the many different expressions of love which, over nearly 60 years, have moulded and shaped me and helped to make me the person I am today. It is impossible for us to imagine what life would be like without the precious, indispensable gift of love. For, as Bishop Michael reminded the worldwide audience who were listening to him last Saturday:“Ultimately, the source of love is God himself; the source of all our lives. There’s an old medieval poem that says: ‘Where true love is found, God himself is there.” He must certainly have connected with his Catholic listeners in saying that for we sing the words of the“old medieval poem” each year at the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday – “Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.”
The decision to convert and embrace the Catholic faith is itself an act of love. What else but love could motivate a man or woman to leave their former security behind and step out into the unknown without any guarantee of a certain future. Yes, it is an act of faith but it is also an act of love – love for God; love for Jesus, His Divine Son and for the message of His Holy Gospel; love for His One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, which is the company of all true Christian believers. Conversion, for everyone who experiences it, makes of “this old world a new world”. It marks a whole new beginning. And what the convert longs for more than anything else as he or she makes that new start is the assurance of being loved.
Whether like marmite we loved Bishop Michael’s sermon or hated it we cannot quarrel with its central message of the “redemptive power of love.”
“Love is not selfish and self-centred. Love can be sacrificial, and in so doing, becomes redemptive. And that way of unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive love changes lives, and it can change this world.”