Friday, March 25, 2016

Seven Last Words (HarperOne)

The seven last words of Jesus are some of the most well-known and well-reflected on phrases in Christianity. In them, both Jesus' divinity and humanity are on full display as we see a range of emotions, including pain, concern, and sympathy. Many sermons have been about these seven phrases and several books have been written as well. One of the most recent books on this topic is by Fr. James Martin, and is appropriately titled Seven Last Words: An Invitation to a Deeper Friendship with Jesus.

Seven Last Words was preached by Fr. James Martin at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City. The book is seven chapters long and focuses on Jesus' understanding of forgiveness, doubt about the afterlife, parental love, feelings of abandonment, physical pain, disappointment, and self-offering. The grand theme of these reflections is that "Jesus's sufferings help him to understand us." What Fr. Martin means by this is because Jesus lived a fully human life, he went through things that we do and experienced things that we experience and thus understands us. This is hardly a novel concept, as it is discussed in the Epistle to the Hebrews that Jesus is able to sympathize with us, because he was tested as we were with the only difference being that He did not sin.

Each chapter/reflection begins with the Scripture passage on where that particular "last word" took place. Thankfully, it provides the Scripture surrounding the passage, and not just the "last word," as this is useful for context. The reflection, which is about ten pages, then follows. 10 pages might sound like a lot, but this is a pocket-sized book, so it reads very quickly. The reflection that spoke to me the most was the first one, which touched on forgiveness. In this reflection, Fr. Martin discusses the concept of radical forgiveness. We are called on to forgive, and that in and of itself is hard, but it is all the harder when the person you are forgiving expresses no remorse. Fr. Martin then recounts personal stories of others and one of his own on forgiveness. He even shares some sage advice that he received. "The only thing to do is forgive. Because it's the only thing that can free both parties." This kind of wisdom is sprinkled throughout the book. Overall, I found the book to be a quick read, and while it's very appropriate to read on Good Friday, you can benefit from it anytime during the year.

This book was provided to me for free by HarperOne in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, please click here and hit Yes!