We might consider this section a sort of adjunct to the Principles of Miracles Section. I like the way the focus has gently shifted: from what is the miracle to what is the miracle worker. Yet the early statements in this part of the text feel very consistent with what we saw earlier: miracles have this effect on time and space, they have this relationship to right-mindedness. The focus seems to be on deepening – or expanding – our conceptual understanding of both miracles and working miracles.
I am sometimes asked if the “Jesus” of A Course in Miracles is literally Jesus of Nazareth making a twentieth century appearance. Updating the gospels, so to speak. Certainly there are course students who believe that, including some of its well-known teachers. Regardless of where we come down on this question (and setting aside for a moment the question of whether we need to come down on it at all), this section does contain one of the best arguments that the sage and healer from Nazareth and the Course Jesus are one and the same.
The statement “Father forgive them for they know not what they do” in no way evaluates what they do. It is an appeal to God to heal their minds. There is no reference to the outcome of the error. That does not matter (T-2.VI.A.16:3-6).
This, of course, mirrors the words attributed to Jesus in the 23rd chapter of Luke’s gospel. He has been nailed to the cross and raised above soldiers who now gamble for his clothes.
Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.
The statements are identical but the meaning is quite different. In the course, Jesus is saying that the soldiers needed forgiveness because they were literally acting in a wrong-minded way. What they were doing – crucifying Jesus – wasn’t really the point. The error made by the wrong-minded is never the problem – it’s the wrong-mindedness itself.
Think about that for a moment. Jesus is overlooking his painful execution entirely. The soldiers could be teasing him for wearing crappy sandals for all he cares. The issue is entirely a question of right vs. wrong-mindedness.
This is insane!
Two things are happening here. First, we are being introduced to the radical idea of forgiveness according to A Course in Miracles. It’s not about judgment at all. Second, we are being asked to revise our understanding of one of the most seminal events of human history – the crucifixion. If we ever doubted how radical and demanding A Course in Miracles truly is, this section puts that doubt to rest. We are in the hands of an Author who wants to literally convert us to pure Love on the scale of Christ. Nothing else will do. Are we ready for that?
Let’s take those ideas one at a time. First, forgiveness. Keep in mind the example of the crucifixion. Even setting aside its cultural import (which is all but impossible for most of us) it was still a grievous insult to the one being crucified. Wouldn’t Jesus have been justified in asking God to forgive the soldiers for killing him?
But he can’t do that – and doesn’t – because if he did, he would compromise the whole point of the lesson which is that errors in and of themselves don’t matter. And if the crucifixion doesn’t matter, then what does?
Never confuse right- and wrong-mindedness. Responding to any form of error with anything except a desire to heal is an expression of this confusion (T-2.VI.A.13:3-4).
And a few lines later:
Forgiveness is an empty gesture unless it entails correction. Without his it is essential judgmental, rather than healing (T-2.VI.A.15:3-4).
Thus we must eschew judgment altogether in favor of the love modeled by Jesus as he met his death. We want to correct wrong-mindedness, without reference to the actual error. Can we handle that kind of forgiveness? Isn’t that the sort of love that belongs to saints?
I think that if we are encountering this text in a personal way – if it feels as if it was written for you – then it doesn’t matter what we think of that love. It’s what Jesus is calling us to. Better to accept that – to ask for his help – and get on with it.
Finally, I want to touch briefly on the crucifixion. If you are like me, there are plenty of Christians in your life – some are super-progressive, some are conservative and a lot are in between. They come from different points on the theological spectrum. But none of them are going to cheerfully entertain the possibility that the crucifixion didn’t matter as such. This is how Jesus redeemed us, clearing our sins with God. It’s how he demonstrated his intense love for us. There are a lot of variations on this idea, but precious few people are willing to say it didn’t matter.
Why does Jesus want to undo this idea in the course? Why does he want to so completely redefine the image?
Well, it is entirely consistent with the idea that the world is not real – that form doesn’t matter, but content does. His execution then was simply another example of the guilt and fear of the separation. In the end, we are always trying to heal the separation – not make the world a better place.
I also want to suggest – carefully and respectfully – that we are being asked by this Jesus to move beyond something that is merely religious or even theological. We are not creating new belief systems to replace old ones and we are not to create churches or monasteries. A Course in Miracles is a radical self-study program, one that aims to change us – you and me – as we find ourselves right this very moment. We are being asked to wake up – to remember ourselves in and as God.
In this section, I can almost hear Jesus begging us not to make an idol of him anymore – but rather to simply accept him as a big brother who knows the way home.
Turning from this section, then, can leave us with a deeper appreciation for the entirely radical path we are now on – miracle workers are literally working miracles, transforming their minds from hatred and guilt and fear to radiant love. There is nothing else that needs to be done. Indeed, there is nothing else that can be done. And we have found the one – if we will let him lead us, let him teach us – that will accomplish the seeming impossible with us.