Commentary on Lesson 247: Without forgiveness I will still be blind

In commenting on today's lesson, I want to focus particularly on these beautiful but puzzling lines from the first paragraph:

Brother, come and let me look on you.
Your loveliness reflects my own.
Your sinlessness is mine.
You stand forgiven, and I stand with you. (W-pII.247.1:5-8)

We immediately wonder: Who is saying these lines to whom? Is Jesus perhaps saying these lines to us? This question, however, is answered immediately in the next sentence, which is the opening line of the prayer: "So would I look on everyone today" (2:1). So at least this much is solved: We are saying these lines to our brother, who is anyone and everyone.

To really appreciate the full meaning of these lines, however, we need to realize that Jesus is drawing on a conventional image here. Look at that first line: "Come and let me look on you." Where have you heard something like that before?

Haven't you seen scenes somewhere, in fiction or in real life, where a family member says to another family member that she hasn't seen in a long time, "Come and let me look at you"? This is indeed a common image. Usually, it is an older family member saying it to a young female that she hasn't seen in ages. This, then, is another example of a favorite device of Jesus: taking conventional cultural images and exaggerating them, stretching them, either in the direction of the ego or the Holy Spirit.

Examples of this image

I pulled three examples of this saying off the Internet. In each case, I have put in bold the line "Come and let me look at you."

From a play entitled "The Lost Princess"

Queen: Oh, look! Her eyes are like yours, and her mouth is just like mine; she is really our lost daughter. Oh my girl, come and let me look at you.
Claire: Mom?! Dad?! Are you really my parents?

From "Princess Polly's Playmates" by Amy Brooks, part of the Dorothy Dainty series, published 1902-1923

For the moment she forgot Polly, and hastening across the great hall, lest Uncle John might guess that she did not wish to meet him, little Rose Atherton entered the long, cool parlor, and found herself face to face with a tall, handsome man, who rose to greet her. His waving hair was touched with gray, his brown eyes were merry. "So this is little Rose," he said, "will you come and let me look at you? Why, who made the dainty wreath for you?" He offered not one, but both his hands to her, and with a happy cry, she laid her little hands in his. "Will you come for a few days and make me a visit?" he asked. "You will have a pleasant time, and we shall get acquainted. I think I can make you like me, little Rose." "Oh, I do, I DO like you NOW!" she cried, and her little heart was filled with delight. Here was a cheery, handsome young uncle, in place of the unattractive old uncle that she had supposed awaited her. "

From Paul Ferroll. A Tale, by Caroline Clive, 1856

These meditations were broken off by the placing of the flowers in her hair, which demanded her own attention as well as that of her maid. Then came putting on the new gown, a gown most beautifully made by Mrs. Johnstone in Dover Street, and fresh from its deal box, and overlappings of silver paper. She was pleased with her own appearance, and went in search of Mr. Ferroll [her husband] to show herself to him. He was in the library, and Janet was there too, well dressed in great simplicity, and standing by a table admiring some flowers, while her father sat reading near the fire. "Come and let me look at you, Elinor," he said, as his wife entered the room. "You are beautiful, you are embellished; you are all moonlight, and the breath of violets. How can there be such beautiful things made as women, as women like you. So that's the way you wear your lace frills. It's very pretty; it's new, yet looks like something everybody ought always to have done."

Observations about the examples

In the first example, we have someone saying this line to a long-lost family member (very reminiscent of Jesus' strawberry mark comment to Bill, but that's another story). In the second example, we have an uncle saying it to a niece he has met for the very first time. In the third example, we have a husband saying it to his wife who has just gotten dressed up for a ball in a new gown. In all three, then, the person saying it is a family member (although I found another example in which a woman says it to a young woman she hasn't seen in some time). In all three, the person it is said to is female. In two, she is a girl who is being met for the first time.

Why are you saying this line? Why do you want her to come so that you can look at her? In two of the cases, you are meeting a new member of the family. In the third case, you are seeing your wife dressed up for the ball in a new gown. She looks lovely. There is a bit of this in the second example, where the girl is wearing a wreath of fresh flowers in her hair.

These passages, then, back up my sense of the image. One most often says this line to a young woman who is part of one's family. You want to look at her, because you are seeing her for the first time, or for the first time in a long time, and because she is lovely. To put this in more abstract terms, you are discovering someone that is connected to you—that is part of your family, part of your extended identity—and that is very lovely.

The fit

Jesus is clearly using this image. We can know that for three reasons:

  1. He has us speaking to someone almost the exact phrase: "Come and let me look on you." The only difference is "on" versus "at."
  2. The person we are saying this to is a family member of sorts; in this case, a "brother."
  3. We specifically want to look on this person's "loveliness"

What Jesus does with it

But Jesus then pulls this image in a holy direction, in at least three ways:

  1. The family member is everyone, not just blood. In the Course, our "brother" is anyone. Now this joyous experience of looking upon kin for the first time is transferred to seeing anyone.
  2. The loveliness you are looking on is not physical beauty, but a much deeper kind of beauty, an inner, spiritual beauty. Specifically, it is the beauty of sinlessness. You could say that you are looking not at a beautiful body, but on a beautifulsoul.
  3. At least part of your motivation for looking on this loveliness is so that you can see it in yourself. This is the point of the final three lines of the four:

Your loveliness reflects my own.
Your sinlessness is mine.
You stand forgiven, and I stand with you.

By seeing the loveliness of sinlessness in this family member, you realize it must be in yourself too. By seeing that this person stands forgiven, you realize that, being your brother, you must be standing with him, in the same light of forgiveness.

The transformed image

What Jesus wants to preserve here is the sense of joyous discovery and happy union at meeting for the first time a beautiful young member of your family. This person is beautiful to look at, but also connected to you. Once you meet her, the horizons of your own identity have broadened, and in a very happy way.

Jesus wants us to have that same sense when we encounter anyone. He wants us to approach anyone as we would approach meeting a beloved family member that we are seeing for the first time. Think of the excitement of seeing a beautiful, long-lost family member. We can't wait to see this person, which is why we tell her "Come and let me look on you." We are saying, "Come nearer, my long-lost sister. I want to see your loveliness." That is how we are supposed to look on everyone. But the beauty we are looking on in this person is not the beauty of the body. Rather, it is an inner beauty which surpasses any physical beauty. It is the priceless beauty of sinlessness, of holiness. It's as if our newly-discovered niece is a genuine saint, radiant with holiness, yet no less near and dear.

As we look on her, we are discovering part of our own family. And since this person is part of our family, we must share the same nature that she has. How would you feel if you learned that your own long-lost sister was a true saint? How would that change your view of yourself? Therefore, the unearthly inner beauty that we see in her must also be our own. And by seeing it in her, we see it in ourselves.

Applying the image

Now let's take all that we have learned about this image—its original cultural meaning and its transformed meaning in the Course—and say these lines to someone. Choose someone in your life, and imagine that you are seeing this person again, but seeing him or her like never before. You are seeing into his or her soul. And by doing so, you are seeing a beauty like no earthly beauty. You are discovering a member of your family. You are feeling a sense of kinship that goes far deeper than blood, is thicker even than blood. And you are thereby discovering something about yourself. If he or she is holy and is family, then you must be holy, too.

Gather all this meaning into your mind, and say these lines silently to the person you have chosen:

Brother, come and let me look on you.
Your loveliness reflects my own.
Your sinlessness is mine.
You stand forgiven, and I stand with you.

What would your life be like if you could say and mean those lines to everyone you meet?

I find what Jesus has done with this familiar image to be simply masterful. Who would have picked that particular image as a way to express a holy idea? In doing so, Jesus is implying that there is something about personal love, in all its dearness, tenderness, and intimacy, that needs to be preserved as we move into a higher love. Rather than getting rid of it, we simply expand it to include everyone.

What this means for today's idea

The idea for the day, of course, is "Without forgiveness I will still be blind." What the foregoing implies for this idea is probably pretty clear. Being blind means not greeting people with that joyous "Brother, come and let me look on you," because we don't see that divine loveliness in them. We don't see the beautiful holiness of their soul. That makes us blind in the truest sense of the word. Our real eyes, our spiritual eyes, are not functioning at the moment, and that means we are blind indeed.

By contrast, this means that with forgiveness, our eyes will be opened and we will see. And seeing, a whole new world will be opened up before us. Everywhere we look, we will discover dear, beautiful long-lost sisters and brothers. The joy of a happy reunion will be ours with each person we meet.

So today, as we practice this idea, let's say it with the images we've looked at in mind, so that "Without forgiveness I will still be blind" also means "With forgiveness I will see long-lost family members everywhere, whose beauty I can't wait to look upon."

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