Now we reach the part of the Mass where the Priest delivers his sermon. And the role of the Sermon is to interpret the teachings of Christ and the stories of the Bible for modern congregations so that can continue to act in a Christian way.
Every night I deliver a different sermon based on what is in the news that day – anything to do with Catholicism in Scotland, or religion and politics. Other topics have included what would Catholics vote in the Independence Referendum; David Cameron’s recent speech where he compared himself to Jesus, claiming he is following Jesus’ moral code; I looked at the idea of Christian charity and modern day foodbanks; and last night was all about the rise of the Biblical themed Hollywood blockbuster.
Tonight, seeing as it’s the final performance I’d like to sum up a few pieces of news that I’ve come across today against the backdrop of the Easter celebrations. As well as all the topics I’ve just mentioned, this week I’ve also found out that Catholics now outnumber Protestants in Northern Ireland, while a Republican dissident was shot dead in Belfast; I’ve listened to Pope Francis’ Easter service in Rome, whilst a few politicians are calling for Easter peace in the Ukraine and also seeing a few articles about the origins of Easter, it’s Pagan history and it’s Christian message.
So what’s the big deal? Why is the news so special against the backdrop of this holiday? For Christians, Easter is probably the second main celebration in the Christian calendar but maybe it’s the most important. It signifies not only the death of Christ for us and for our sins, but it describes his resurrection, his ascension into heaven and the fulfilling of his prophecy.
But today, Easter is a bit of a complicated time. For Christians it’s about Christ, but for everyone else it’s about eggs. As with other Christian celebrations Easter was created to replace the pagan rituals, in this case of fertility and the love of sex. I always thought that we ate eggs because Jesus rolled a stone away when he came back from the dead. I imagined that the stone rolled down the hill and that’s why we continue to roll round shaped objects down a hill. It’s also replaced the Passover, which continues to be an important Jewish celebration. But Cadbury’s couldn’t find a chocolate equivalent of the death of the first born son and sheeps blood being smeared on your front door, so Easter eggs is was!
In all of the speeches from leaders and from Christian organisations they all have one thing in common – a call for peace. But it’s really hard to celebrate a Christian holiday when violence is still happening in Northern Ireland and when leaders use Christian messages in political situations. It’s been said a million times before that religion causes conflict, but we all know that’s not true: we know that it’s people who cause conflict and they’ll do it in any name. But the situation in Northern Ireland is so complicated, and it sounds hollow when David Cameron call for something just because it’s Easter, and not admitting to and trying to fix the problems that English governments have caused in Ireland. The situation in Northern Ireland is so complicated and the situation in the Ukraine is so complicated, and no amount of quoting from the Bible is going to help.
So what I’m going to do now is quote from the Bible. What does Jesus say about Easter? The following is from Matthew, and it describes the moment Jesus was raised from the dead and visited his disciples:
Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
You’ll notice he didn’t mention who should walk down what street in Belfast. He didn’t say anything about the Ukraine, and he didn’t mention a bunny. But with those words he started a chain of events that have lead us to where we are now.
And I’d like to finish on another quote. From another God: Woody Allen. Who said, "If Jesus came back and saw what was going on his name, he'd never stop throwing up"