By Rose O’Connor | Correspondent
Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., ushered in Holy Week by comparing Palm Sunday to the door of a house, “a first glimpse – a first impression of what’s inside.”
“Sometimes the first impression is not the one that lasts,” he said during his homily April 9 in Our Lady of Good Counsel Church, West Trenton. “Today is Palm Sunday. It is, liturgically speaking, the front door to Holy Week. And as we enter into any house by the door, so Jesus enters the house of Holy Week through the door that is Jerusalem, through the door that is Palm Sunday.”
Photo Gallery: Bishop celebrates Palm Sunday in West Trenton
Bishop O’Connell, who celebrated Mass before the faithful holding palms, spoke of the significance of Jesus arriving in Jerusalem.
“What we have to remember is that in the Scriptures, Jerusalem is the city where all of the prophets went to die,” he said following the reading of the Passion according to Matthew.
“We enter the front door today in this holiest of weeks. But today, what we see from this door can be a bit deceiving, the crowds are there cheering and praising Jesus, throwing palm branches and olive branches before his feet saying, ‘Hosanna! Hurrah to the Son of David.’ But as we move through the house that is Holy Week, we see the environment start to change. We get a different picture; a different glimpse of the rest of the week, a different glimpse of the house,” he said.
“The crowds turn ugly, the cheers become jeers, the supporters abandon their palms, their olive branches, and even the apostles, as we heard in the Passion reading, they scatter as Jesus walks to Calvary. No more palms, no more ‘Hosannas,’ only as Matthew tells us: shame, spitting, where did all glory, laud and honor go?” he asked.
“From the front door where we stand in the liturgy today, through which we pass into Holy Week, we see Jerusalem before us, we see the king enter, we witness his Passion and we suddenly realize that the house does look a bit different than it did at that first glance. Our first impression didn’t last.”
He concluded with reminding the faithful to think about how God was willing to suffer not just for, but with them.
“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 that God has not been present in their suffering and redeeming first for us and with us,” Bishop O’Connell said. “Jesus knows what we go through; he knows everything we go through in life. That's what he brings to the front door of Palm Sunday, and that is what he takes to the cross on Good Friday, and to the tomb.”
Prior to the Final Blessing, Bishop O’Connell thanked Father Michael Hall, pastor in Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish and diocesan director of worship, and the faithful for inviting him to celebrate Mass, vowing to keep them all in his prayers.
Parishioners in attendance were more than happy to begin Holy Week with their shepherd, too, as they met and took photos with the Bishop.
“I’m just touched so that a descendant of the apostles would want to come and celebrate Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week, with me,” parishioner Mary Anne LaGall shared.
Her husband, Claude, said he was also was touched by the Bishop’s presence as well as his homily.
“I was moved by how he said the first impression is not always the lasting one and that Good Friday and Jesus rising from the dead is really the lasting impression,” he offered.
Parishioner Keri Wilkes reflected on Palm Sunday as her two-year-old son, Daniel, took a photo with Bishop O’Connell after Mass.
“Holy Week gives us an opportunity to look forward with hope about what Easter is really about and what is all means,” she said. “I see this week as a positive one – and one of personal renewal.”