This cross is made of oak wood. The wood would once have stood proud as a tall tree somewhere here in Ireland. After that, it was cut down at the appointed time and repurposed as a kitchen work top in the house of a loving family who live near me here in West Belfast. Once the kitchen of the house needed changed, the family offered me their work top, knowing I had an interest in carving wood. I gladly accepted with gratitude.
And the oak tree / kitchen work top has been repurposed again. It now stands as a foot-tall cross. It is heavy and substantial and I think it is rather beautiful with the colour and grain of the oak wood proclaiming for all to see of the wonder of nature and the love of God.
The thing that interests me the most about this wood is that it is not one piece. In order to make the kitchen work top the wood was cut into long strips and glued together to form a laminate of oak that was stronger than the wood has been when it was one piece. This creation of different pieces actually made it stronger. Difference equals strength. Wow!
As I carved the cross I made sure that it would reflect this difference and be made of several different pieces of the oak wood. If you look closely you can see where the different pieces of wood have been joined together. It does not look like different pieces of wood though- it looks like one unified piece. It IS one unified piece. It is unity in difference.
God is a God of unity in difference. We Catholics express this in our doctrine of the Trinity – one God in three persons as we say. And yet, we Catholics are as blind as anyone else to the beauty of diversity at times. We understand a God who is nothing but love and who created all things and yet we can create all sorts of blockages to loving the very creations that God brought into being. Go figure! Humans, eh?
We, all of us, regardless of colour, creed, identity or status, while different, also make one unified piece. We are one people. And just as the oak was stronger for difference, we too are stronger because of our difference and our diversity. However, our social, economic and political structures often do not reflect this appreciation of difference- indeed, many of those structures reinforce division and seek to do down those seen as being different from the dominant groups in society. We must all resist such injustice and do what we can to bring change.
This cross – unity in difference – invites us all to consider how we look at the world. Do we see in-groups and out-groups? Do we create walls and barriers? Or do we welcome difference as the expression of God who is much bigger and much more loving that we could ever be?