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March 14,
2016 — When he was nailed to the cross on Good Friday, Jesus uttered seven last
phrases. From the well-known “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what
they are doing” to Jesus’ plea, “I am thirsty,” the phrases provide a written
transcript of the Savior’s last hours. But for Fr. James Martin, SJ, they’re
something more: the words – of pain, suffering and spiritual alienation –
invite us into a deeper friendship with Jesus.

Last Good
Friday, Fr. Martin, a bestselling author and editor-at-large of America
magazine, preached the Seven Last Words at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York
City. And that sermon became the basis for his latest book, “Seven Last Words,”
which, at 144 pages, has been called “short and powerful” by Publishers Weekly.

On the
cross, Jesus was thirsty and in pain. He felt abandoned. And, according to Fr.
Martin, those expressions of humanity are exactly the point. “Jesus went
through all of the same things that we do, he suffered physically, emotionally
and even spiritually. He had a human body for 33 years so he had all the things
that went along with having a human body. The insight is that Jesus understands
us not simply because he is all knowing but because he actually had human

And when you
have a friend with a shared experience, it’s easier to connect. “If you’re, God
forbid, struggling with cancer and you meet someone who’s been through that, you’re
going to be more open. You can be more open with a Jesus who understands you, and
I hope that makes people more comfortable opening themselves up to Jesus.” 

Fr. Martin offers
a meditation for each of the seven phrases Jesus said while hanging from the

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

into your hands I commend my spirit.”

And even
though the seven phrases were familiar to Fr. Martin, there were still
revelations. “I’m continually amazed by the phrase ‘My God, my God, why have
you forsaken me?’ I think the thing that was new to me in this book was that
Jesus suffered spiritual pain, which all believers do. So there’s another way
we can relate to Jesus, which is not to say that he didn’t believe in God
anymore but that he felt God’s distance.”

Fr. Martin
is pleased that book groups and parishes are using “Seven Last Words” but he
cautions that the “insight that Jesus understands us transcends even Lent.”

The book is
available in print, digital and audio formats and can be ordered at View a short video clip
of Fr. Martin introducing “Seven Last Words” below and read an excerpt from the
book at America
. [Sources: HarperCollinsRead
the Spirit

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