Christina Cannon, one of two elect in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults in St. Dominic Parish, is baptized by Bishop O'Connell during the April 3 Easter Vigil.
Christina Cannon, one of two elect in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults in St. Dominic Parish, is baptized by Bishop O'Connell during the April 3 Easter Vigil.
On the evening of Holy Saturday, Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., urged the faithful to remember that nothing was ever the same again after the dark hours of Jesus’ Death gave way to the light of his glorious Resurrection.

“Easter is that moment in the history of the world when the world was changed forever; changed by an obscure Jesus of Nazareth who lived and died but who rose to new life, Jesus Christ the Messiah of God! Alleluia! Amen!” Bishop O’Connell said to the congregation in St. Dominic Church, Brick, where he celebrated the Great Easter Vigil April 3.

PHOTO GALLERY: Easter Vigil in St. Dominic Church, Brick

RELATED GALLERY: Easter Vigil in St. Mary of the Pines Church, Barnegat

“My sisters and brothers, the Lord Jesus Christ has risen from the dead,” he said. “That is what we celebrate tonight.

“For all of us here, Easter is the heart of our faith, its life, its breath, its everything,” the Bishop said. “There is no more significant human expression than faith in Jesus’ Resurrection. He didn’t just die and come back to life. He was not merely revived or resuscitated. Jesus’ Resurrection is about new life, transformed life, a completely different order of existence. He rose from the dead leaving death behind him. The tomb is empty. Tonight is about glory and triumph.” 

Across the Diocese, the Risen Lord was proclaimed and new members were joyfully welcomed into the faith through the reception and completion of the Sacraments of Initiation. These adult members, who received their formation in their parish’s Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults process, included the 132 elect who were to receive the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and First Eucharist and 223 baptized candidates who were confirmed and received First Eucharist.  

In St. Dominic Church, Bishop O’Connell baptized two women and confirmed a total of five people.

“Tonight is a special celebration for you, an Easter unlike any other that you have celebrated or will celebrate again,” Bishop O’Connell said, directing his comments to the two elect and three candidates.

“Treasure this moment and make it a living, enduring part of your experience at Easter. The mysteries that we have celebrated this Holy Week – which find their culmination in this Vigil – belong to you and you belong to them. The Death and Resurrection of Jesus define you now and forever,” Bishop O’Connell said. “Baptism connects you to Christ’s Death and new life through water. Confirmation confirms that connection and new life through oil. The Holy Eucharist sustains that connection and new life through Christ’s own Body and Blood. And all of it is yours tonight.” 

Because of pandemic restrictions, there were several parts of the Easter Vigil that were eliminated including the Blessing of the Easter Fire and sprinkling of the congregation with newly blessed holy water. Instead, the new Paschal candle was lit before the start of the Vigil and the priest was to bless a small container of holy water since the fonts in the churches had to remain empty.

In his homily, Bishop O’Connell preached that while the Gospels in the New Testament are “largely silent” about Jesus of Nazareth until he begins his public ministry around the age of 30, the writings and traditions in the Old Testament keep the Messiah before the minds of the faithful and in their hopes and expectations.

“We can trace the development of those writings and traditions tonight in the Readings selected for the Easter Vigil” that include the creation story and the call of Abraham in the book of Genesis; the liberation of the chosen people of God … through the great Hebrew prophets of Isaiah, Baruch and Ezekiel, “salvation history is mapped out, leading to the promised Messiah,” he said, then added how it is the New Testament, especially the Gospels, that “connect all that was planned and foretold about the Messiah with Jesus of Nazareth.

“Although Jesus was an ‘unknown’ for most of his life, he certainly attracted enough attention in his last three years to lift people’s hopes that the Messiah had come, and the Messiah was he!” Bishop O’Connell said. “But now, he was dead, put to death in a most horrible way, dashing the hopes of his followers that he was anything but the Messiah.” 

However, the Bishop continued, that was not the end of the story. “When that happened, the Apostles lost hope. [But] Mark’s Gospel tells us tonight that when the women came to the tomb in which Jesus was buried, the stone was rolled back; his body was not there; the tomb was empty. ‘He has been raised, he is not here,’ they were told by an angel. Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah – everything that had been said and predicted about him had been fulfilled, had come true.”