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Posted October 15, 2013

Book: The Last Words of Jesus: A Meditation on Love and Suffering
Author: Daniel P. Horan, O.F.M.
Franciscan Media. Cincinnati, OH. 2013. Pp. 104

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

Much has been written on the last words of Jesus, the traditional phrases taken from Scripture that depict Jesus' final moments as he dies on the cross. In this new take on the last words, author Daniel P. Horan, O.F.M. brings a fresh perspective to this time-honored mediation as he challenges readers to look at their lives through the lens of Jesus' suffering and death. The focus throughout is on the immense love of God for human beings, shown in the gift of Jesus, God made flesh.

In his preface, Horan writes, "In a world that remains irrevocably shaped by the suffering of the human condition, the misunderstanding between groups and cultures symbolized by the horrific events of September 11, we need to hear Christ's words anew." He gives us a different look into these words by drawing on works by other noted scholars and spiritual writers, then fashioning a view of these phrases that's contemporary and thought-provoking.

An Excerpt from the Book:

The renowned Trappist monk and author Thomas Merton understood the meaning of love modeled after Christ's example. In his mid-twentieth-century writings, he lamented the commercialization and self-centeredness that shaped so much of what people in his day considered to be love. In his own way, he offers something of an explanation for why people in the modern era might be less willing to "drink from the cup" of love and suffering that Jesus did and invites his followers to do likewise. He writes,

The trouble with this commercialized idea of love is that it diverts your attention more and more from the essentials to the accessories of love. You are no longer able to really love the other person, for you become obsessed with your own package, your own product, your own market value . . .For many people what matters is the delightful and fleeting moment in which the deal is closed. They give little thought to what the deal itself represents. That is perhaps why so many marriages do not last, and why so many people have to remarry. They cannot feel real if they just make one contract and leave it at that.

How much more prevalent is this sense and misunderstanding of love today? The basic problem with this sort of popular notion of love is that those who want to believe in it wish to separate it from the other side of passion, which is suffering and therefore seek to maintain all control at all times. Isn't this really what so many people want? More control? Merton addresses this desire for control head-on.

The plain truth is this: love is of a matter of getting what you want. Quite the contrary. The insistence on always having what you want, on always being satisfied, on always being fulfilled, makes love impossible. To love you have to climb out of the cradle, where everything is "getting" and grow up to the maturity of giving, without concern for getting anything special in return. Love is not a deal, it is a sacrifice. It is not marketing, it is a form of worship.

Like Richard Rohr, Merton sees authentic Christian love as a path toward growth and maturity. It requires the surrender of personal control and the desire for self-gratification, and it challenges us to move beyond the superficial to encounter the true depth of our human condition and divine grace.

Table of Contents:

Introduction: Passion, Control, and a Franciscan Perspective on the Last Words of Christ

The first word: "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do."

The second word: "Today you will be with me in Paradise."

The third word: "Woman behold your son."

The fourth word: "My God, my God why have you forsaken me?"

The fifth word: "I thirst."

The sixth word: "It is finished."

The seventh word: "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit."


Ending with the beginning: The First Words of Christ