Review: Seven Last Words: An Invitation to a Deeper Friendship

Seven Last Words: An Invitation to a Deeper Friendship with JesusSeven Last Words: An Invitation to a Deeper Friendship with Jesus by James Martin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this short, pithy and engaging book during a Retreat. It was a shame, in one sense, that the retreat wasn’t taking place during Holy Week or late Lent, as I would consider that the perfect time to engage with James Martin’s reflections on the Seven Last Words of Jesus.

The most engaging part of the reflections was that they weren’t what might be considered the expected saccharine-sweet, overly devotional and pietistic fare that one can at times encounter when dealing with this subject matter. These reflections cut to the bone, challenging me – and hopefully other readers – to engage in going beyond the surface level sentimentality of the Passion of Christ right to the stuff-of-contemporary-life that these Seven Last Words have to offer to the believer of the 21st century.

I found the style of Martin’s writing accessible and engaging, as I have with the other works of his that I have read. Their origin as spoken reflections may have significantly enhanced this quality; you can almost hear the voice of Martin speaking these words…even though I’ve never heard his voice!

Thoroughly recommended, and I’ll be putting this book on my list to be re-read closer to Holy Week next year.

From the blurb:

Based on his talks at New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Good Friday 2015, the New York Times bestselling author and editor at large of America magazine offers a portrait of Jesus, using his last words on the cross to reveal how deeply he understood our predicaments, what it means to be fully human, and why we can turn to Christ completely, in mind, heart, and soul.

Each meditation is dedicated to one of the seven sayings:

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”

“Today you will be with me in Paradise.”

“Woman, this is your son” . . . “This is your mother.”

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

“I thirst.”

“It is finished.”

“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”

With the warmth, wisdom, and grace that infuse his works, Father James Martin explains why Jesus’s crucifixion and death on the cross is an important teaching moment in the Gospels. Jesus’s final statements, words that are deeply cherished by his followers, exemplify the depth of his suffering but also provide a key to his empathy and why we can connect with him so deeply.

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