A royal wedding and the redemptive power of love

I really wasn’t going to write about the royal wedding. I really, truly wasn’t. But that was before all of us watching were taken to church by Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church Michael Curry on live, global television.

Before I continue, I’m just going to note up-front that there will be some objections to my writing on this particular sermon. In the days following the royal wedding, it has been revealed, and gleefully celebrated, that Bishop Curry is an outspoken advocate for same-sex marriage. I didn’t know this when I watched him preach during the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. And I would bet that most people didn’t. Still, that alone will be a reason some will dismiss this column and his sermon as a whole. But I think that would be missing an opportunity, and here’s why.

On that occasion, Bishop Curry didn’t push a progressive agenda on sexuality. He didn’t even preach on the two young people themselves, on how they met and fell in love, as is so often the case at many weddings today. Instead, taking a cue from Martin Luther King Jr., he preached on love. And not just love itself, but on love’s redemptive power.

“Jesus ... gave up his life, he sacrificed his life, for the good of others, for the good of the other, for the well-being of the world ... for us,” he said. “That’s what love is. Love is not selfish and self-centered. 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.”

That’s powerful stuff. If we take him for his message — and the stunning fact that this message reached 29.2 million people in the United States alone, many of them young and unchurched — we know that this is a chance to evangelize.

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No other institution on earth has a greater capacity to explain the redemptive power of love than the Catholic Church. Our blend of Scripture and Tradition, our millenia-old teachings rooted in truth and charity all snap into focus when looked at through the lens of Jesus’ self-giving love — a love that saved the world. In response, all he has asked of us is to echo Mary’s “yes” and love one another and love our neighbor as ourselves.

But it also is precisely because of this love that the Church rejoices in that self-gift and complementarity of men and women, understanding that any other sexual union is simply impossible. This is where Bishop Curry lacks clarity. But it’s also where the Church can bring it.

Within the sacrament of marriage, two become one, and life will never be the same. This is both wondrous and daunting. And only through love’s saving power can the marriage of one man and one woman be life-giving in every sense.

Bishop Curry was right: Love has the power to change the world. This is the message of Jesus Christ, and this is the message of the Church. And this is the message of love that we are called to share.

Gretchen R. Crowe is editor-in-chief of OSV Newsweekly. Follow her on Twitter @GretchenOSV.