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If Wood Could Talk

March 20, 2014

Have you ever stumbled into a woodworking shop or an antique refurbisher’s studio? Those places are magic. Old wooden frames lie stacked against tables laden with drills, chisels, carpenter’s planes and dozens of other metal tools. Half-finished chairs sit patiently in the corners, waiting for the touch of the master’s hand to be made whole. Maybe an old lathe hums busily in the background. Your stealthy footsteps won’t make any noise; the floor is carpeted in sweet-smelling sawdust. This is the room of a creator. Perhaps God had a room like this when He made the world.

What would the wood say, if it could? Sounds like a first-rate tongue twister. Yet you do feel that these chairs and frames and grandfather clock cases must have some fascinating stories, if they are antiques — or some bright hopes for their future lives, if they were brand new. What does a picture frame hope for out of life? Probably to contain the most beautiful image possible inside it. What could a grandfather clock have to say about its past? Perhaps the times when it’s metal gears chimed for all the events of the family who owned it — the comedies and tragedies that only grandfather clocks remember.

But, I think, the most powerful stories would be about what takes place right there in the shop. If you asked the chairs about their most thrilling moment, the grandfather clocks about their most sacred memory, their voices would hush and they would whisper as one telling a holy secret. They would whisper about the touch of the master’s hand.

St. Joseph must have had a workshop like this one. He must have filled it with the simple tools of his trade. The rustic plows and the broken tables would have been brought to his carpenter’s bench and laid there like the crippled and the blind and the lame. And to all of them he would give the masterful touch of his hands.

Where did Jesus get his master’s hands? How did he know to touch the blind man’s eyes with steady care, to make smooth again the mute’s tongue, to give the crippled back their sturdy legs and new life to Lazarus and the widow’s son?

Only a master can pass on his master’s hands. In this woodworker’s shop of creation and repair, you can just make out young Jesus at the bench, watching with wide-eyed wonder, as his foster father Joseph chisels away and makes a new creation of this wooden flesh. And the wood, like the paralytic so many years later, repeats the grateful phrase: “He has laid his hands on me, and now I may stand again!”


From → Musings

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