One day, on a visit to an old seminary in my diocese, I found myself alone in a chapel which was devoted solely to Eucharistic adoration. I had ventured to the seminary for some private prayer since I had no plans for the day and was desiring some extra time with God.
This small chapel on the lower level of the building is referred to as the Bishop’s Crypt Chapel. Previous bishops from the diocese are buried in the lowest sections of the space, and there is an even smaller chapel tucked away behind the sacristy which is used for adoration.
I sat down to pray in the tiny space, but while my eyes were closed and the silence became deep, my attention was drawn towards some movement on the opposite side of the chapel. A priest, a Missionary of the Most Holy Eucharist, had entered a few minutes prior. I looked as he peered down at his watch, gently sprung out of his seat, and knelt with his eyes closed and head bowed down. His prayer was authentic, powerful, and hyper-focused. It was like someone important had just entered the chapel or something earth-shattering had just occurred.
The suddenness of the action was quiet, but dramatic and intense. It was as if he was fearful that he was missing out on a special moment. A moment or two of reflection went by before I looked at the time on my own watch and realized that it was 3:00 p.m. Here was a priest, literally of the Eucharist, who devoted his whole existence to prayer before adoration and spent his life bringing others to the feet and fount of mercy. In that moment, I recognized that his move to fall on his knees corresponded with the time we remember as Jesus’ death.
On more than one occasion since, I have viewed him falling to his knees while in chapel at 3:00 p.m. Each day was an opportunity for him, and it is for us, to catch the eyes of the son looking down at us, especially at the moment of Christ’s death: “And at three o’clock Jesus cried out…gave a loud cry and breathed his last” (Mark 15:34,37).
The priest’s action on these occasions was profound, peaceful, and moving for me, because it allowed me insight into the capacity for modern-day disciples to be with Christ in his suffering. Jesus’ suffering and death is a moment in time that we are invited to come in contact with each day. His closest friends and followers decided to abandon him in his hour of need.
However, we are given the true opportunity to be like Mary and John. To stay with Christ until the end. If we choose to give him our utmost attention, he will draw us into that most intimate yet powerful moment in history; we will be given insight into just how far God is willing to go to win our hearts. During Lent, this reality is at the forefront of our consciousness, but it is something we are asked to recall with deep intimacy every day of our life.
Despite the knowledge of God’s love personified on the cross, I so often neglect to sit and reflect on the magnitude of his suffering, on the fact that in his final moments the only thing he could think about was me, and you. This holy priest in that dimly lit chapel reminded me that entrance into this divine moment is both possible and transformative. Most importantly though, he showed me that faith can grow leaps and bounds every single day by uniting ourselves to his suffering. Forcing myself to be more attentive to the 3:00 p.m. hour in some way each afternoon has brought me closer to God, because his suffering reveals just how far he is willing to go to be a part of my life.
Three o’clock is often referred to as the hour of mercy. The moment when the floodgates of God’s infinite and compassionate love rush forth to meet us. Today, this week, and each day let us make the effort to reside at Jesus’ side at the time of his death. Set a reminder on your phone which repeats every day at 3:00 p.m. and make a decision to do or say something as your offering to Jesus in that moment. It may be as simple as making the sign of the cross, reciting the Hail Mary or reading a favorite Bible verse.
Let us be like that priest, like Mary, and like John. Let us allow Christ to draw us to himself, to cleanse us of all sin, to wrap us in his radical mercy, and to gaze into our eyes with the love that even death can’t conquer. To do so, let 3:00 p.m. become our worship.