Today we celebrate the Patron Saint of this land, George. It should have nothing to do with flags, or nationalism, or dragons. George was a soldier, but one who fought for the army of the Lord, who obeyed not the rulers of the world but God. In his life and his death he bore witness to the saving death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and valued heavenly things above those of the earth.
We celebrate S. George because he bore witness to his faith during the persecution of the Church by the Roman emperor, Diocletian. Above all else and regardless of the cost he put his trust in the love of God shown to the world in Christ Jesus, and we should do the same. We should do the same because then we are truly following Christ – we are living out our faith in our lives so that the world may believe. The world will not like this, it will prefer us to submit to its ways, to acquiesce, to sell the Gospel short for the sake of a quiet and an easy life.
We see this in today’s Gospel: Our Lord tells us that the world will hate us because it has hated him first. The world hates, whereas Christians love – we love each other, we love our enemies, but above all else we love Christ and through him God the Father. We love the God who for love of us and all creation opened his arms on the Cross to embrace it with his love. The world’s reaction is to reject the God who created it, to reject his love and to hate all that he is. Thus while we are in the world we cannot be of the world – we cannot let who and what we are and what we do come from hatred, but rather from love alone.
We may face persecution for our faith, we may be mocked or dismissed as irrelevant, outdated or insignificant, we may even lose our lives. But whatever happens we cannot do anything other than be filled with the joy of the Resurrection, the joy of him who overcomes the world, who saves it. We are servants of our heavenly master – we are obedient to him, and to him above all else. Like S. George we are obedient to the one who loves us, so that we may proclaim his saving truth to the world. So we can be like those in the vision of S. John who ‘have conquered by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death’ (Rev 12:11). We can prefer nothing to Christ, and in this we will follow the example of S. George, his life, and his death. The world will hate us for this, dismissing us as zealots, extremists, or religious fanatics; it may even try to ignore us. But through living lives of faith and trust in God and showing that faith and trust in our lives, in loving service of him who died for us, we bear witness to the truth which sets us free. It is a freedom the world cannot understand – it dislikes it and cannot control it – it shows the tyranny of the world for what it is.
So let us celebrate the glory of bearing witness to Christ in all things, so that the world may believe in the God who loves them and saves them – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to whom be ascribed as is most right, and just, all might, majesty, glory, dominion, and power, now and forever.