Easter Day sermon by Bishop of Clogher and Archbishop-Elect of Armagh


Easter Day Service.

The following is the sermon by the Bishop of Clogher and Archbishop-Elect of Armagh at the Service of Holy Communion from Kiltermon Church, Fivemiletown for Easter Sunday and broadcast online on Clogher Diocese Facebook page.
The audio version of the service will be broadcast on Easter Sunday at 9pm on Northern Sound 96.8 FM and Shannonside 104.1 FM.
The video version can be seen at the following link;

“Early in the morning on the first day of the week..” John 20:1

One of the differences between the Gospels and more modern writings, like biographies, is that the Gospel writers had no interest in the psychology of the people they were writing about; what was going on in their heads.

If someone was writing a modern biography of Jesus, or John or Mary they would be interested in their thought processes or what their childhood had been like. As you know, our childhood experiences are the source of much of what we dread or love as adults. 'The child is father to the man,' as the poet said.

But that is not what ancient writers were interested in, so they don’t provide ready answers to satisfy our curiosity. However, we can’t help wondering, can we? What were the Twelve and that group of women who had been so close to him during his lifetime, thinking and feeling? One man and three women had stood nearby the foot of the Cross until the very end. Until it was finished. What were they thinking and feeling?

Most people reading this will know that grief is a very exhausting emotion. Bereavement is tough. It drains a person and often disorients them. Bereavement counsellors tell people not to make any important decisions for at least six months following the death of a loved one. Especially where that death has been traumatic; as Jesus violent death was.

Mary Magdalene must have been exhausted with grief. With Jesus, every hope had died. Who knows what she thought she was doing when she went to the garden where the tomb they had borrowed to bury him was situated? Who knows why we do lots of things when we are worn out by life?

Mary’s reaction represents the reaction of so many in our world too. Those tens of thousands of people who live in the presence of overwhelming cruelty and who see the finality of death very close at hand every day. Those in Ireland who have suffered inexplicable and traumatic loss in the most difficult of circumstances due to the horrors of the coronavirus.

It appears that all hope is gone. But... 'Early in the morning on the first day of the week, while it was still dark...' everything changes. The one whose body had been a corpse, lifeless on a stone slab in a borrowed tomb, now stands before Mary, speaking her name. Just as he spoke,your name through his Church, at your baptism,and made you, by his gift, a daughter or a son of the Resurrection.

When Mary heard her name spoken, we read, she “turned towards Jesus”, and everything changed. Death, which is the mother and father of all fears, had met its match. And more than it’s match. Fear and grief withered. Hope was restored. Love was, after all, the victor.

Although men tried to finish off Jesus 2000 years ago, and often we too try to finish him off by pretending he is still dead or might as well not exist; we find that we cannot expel God God or the life go God from this world or from our lives. Jesus is Risen and he is alive. And he is active through the Spirit. Where there was once weeping, there is now joy

And joy in the face of difficulties is our witness to the Resurrection. Today to seems that almost the whole world is suffering from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Billions of people are still trapped in the cave of isolation. Tens of thousands of people around the world can't even sit by the hospital beds of dying loved ones and are waiting by a phone for an unwanted call. All those who are struggling for life. The many healthcare workers who are tending to them. Churches fallen silent and empty.

But if online views are anything to go by there will be more people worshipping the Risen Lord than for many years. Our hope and our joy. And I say “joy” not unremitting “happiness”. Joy is a gift from God; a gift of his Spirit, proceeding from the Father and the Son. Joy can live were happiness can’t. It can live alongside fear, depression, bereavement, illness and depression because the joy of Christ comes from knowing thaw no one but God has the last word.

And God’s last word is the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead in which he said “Yes” to the world he had created and recreated in the image of his Son. Truly he rose on the third day with a new Kingdom in his hand.

The proclamation that Jesus is alive changes everything. Not instantly and simplistically. But it changes us. That joy in the huge life of Jesus is present in food banks, in community projects, in every voluntary down to earth initiative that the Church is involved in throughout the world.

But Jesus isn’t finished with Mary Magdelene yet. Her encounter with her Risen Lord isn't simply a personal experience, although it certainly was that. Mary becomes the first apostle, the first
witness to the Resurrection who is sent out by the command of Jesus to teal her “brothers”. In all four Gospels the first witness to the Resurrection is a woman. So Mary becomes the apostle to the apostles.

Through the Mary’s of this world Jesus comes to find us all. And Jesus never leaves us empty handed. He gives us a vocation.; a job to do. The meaning of our existence is to be witnesses to the Resurrection- to the new life of love that is offered in Jesus. The persecuted Church bears witness to the Resurrection in its courage, its joy overcoming fear, and in worship in the midst of war or in dehumanising refugee camps.

Perhaps our distinctive witness to the Resurrection is to let the dry bones of our old ways find new life as we are forced to become a deeply praying community once again as we see just how feeble and fragile the apparatus of civilisation can be. When we show that money isn't our ruler, that self promotion isn't our king, that a life of pleasure is a bitter sor-row and that the survival of the fittest means only that some people die later than others.

The new life of Christ has broken into our world in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. It cannot be contained; it cannot be restricted; it cannot be managed. And the Church exists to show by its life and work the irresistible power that has been set free in the world. And the name of that power is Love. And that Love calls our attention,controls our lives, heals our brokenness and sends us out with purpose, hope and joy.


Jesus, Good Shepherd, who gave your life for the sheep
And who lives to tend your flock
Comfort the bereaved
Recover the straggler
Bind up the injured
Strengthen the sick
And lead the healthy and strong to new pastures
By your great Name