Shown is the entrance procession to the Palm Sunday Mass celebrated by Bishop O'Connell.
Shown is the entrance procession to the Palm Sunday Mass celebrated by Bishop O'Connell.
“There is no place in our humanity where God is not present. No place. No pit so deep, no moment so dark, no sin so vile, no loneliness so wrenching, no experience so painful – dare I say it – no virus so widespread, so devastating, so isolating, that God has not already been present there, suffering and redeeming us.”

Photo Gallery: Palm Sunday Mass in Nativity Church, Fair Haven

Photo Gallery: Palm Sunday Mass in St. Ann Church, Browns Mills

So said Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., in the homily he preached in Nativity Church, Fair Haven, on Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord, as he reflected on the events of Holy Week and all that Christ endured through his Passion and Death and ultimate Resurrection.

“My sisters and brothers, in the Lord Jesus Christ, ours is a God who is willing to suffer not only for us but with us,” he said.

As parishioners entered the church for Mass, they were handed palm fronds which were blessed with holy water during the entrance procession as the Bishop, Father James Grogan, pastor, and parish deacons, made their way up the aisle to the sanctuary. 

Citing that Palm Sunday is “liturgically speaking, the ‘doorway to Holy Week’,” Bishop O’Connell, in the homily he preached following the proclamation of the Lord’s Passion, said, that “As we enter any house through its doors, so Jesus enters the ‘house’ of Holy Week through ‘the door’ that is Jerusalem, through the door that is Palm Sunday, Passion Sunday.

“And, as his followers – a community of faith and belief in him, we Christians enter ‘the door’ with him into this holiest of weeks,” he said.

The Bishop recounted the movements of Palm Sunday and how the view of what was initially taking place was “a bit deceiving.” At the start of Palm Sunday, he said, the crowds are cheering to Jesus the King and throwing palms and olive branches at his feet and jubilantly chanting “hosannas to the Son of David.”

Yet, as the hours and days progress, “we watch the environment change. The crowds of Palm Sunday will turn ugly. The cheers will become jeers, the supporters abandon their palms and thin out,” he said.

“Even the apostles scatter as Jesus walks the path to Calvary. No more palms or olive branches. No more hosannas. Only shame, condemnation and spitting. Where did all the ‘glory, laud and honor’ go”, the Bishop said referencing the title of the entrance hymn sung at the start of Mass.

“Our first impression didn’t last,” he said, but then again, it is only ‘the door’ and the beginning of the saving week that will follow.”

Nativity Parish was the first community in the Diocese that Bishop O'Connell was scheduled to visit for Holy Week 2022. In the coming days, he will travel to St. David the King Church, Princeton Junction, for the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at 7 p.m. on Holy Thursday; St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton, for the Commemoration of the Lord’s Passion at noon on Good Friday, and St. Paul Church, Princeton, for the 8 p.m. Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday. The Bishop will also celebrate the Chrism Mass April 11 in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold, at 7:30 p.m. 

The Chrism Mass and the Good Friday service will be livestreamed on youtube.com/trentondiocese, the Mass of the Lord’s Supper will be livestreamed at stdavidtheking.com/livestream-mass and the Easter Vigil will be livestreamed at stpaulsofprinceton.org/mass-streaming