Jesus said to the disciples, ‘If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world—therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, “Servants are not greater than their master.” If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.’
The origins and the life story of St George are shrouded in uncertainty and conjecture. But, despite that uncertainty, St George has a special place in our national identity. That ‘special place’ has been marked and honoured for many centuries. Consider the words Shakespeare puts into the mouth of King Henry V just before the battle of Agincourt: Follow your spirit; and upon this charge, Cry, ‘God for Harry, England and Saint George!’
Throughout the history of humanity there has been a marking out of certain individuals for various qualities that have been recognized as being special and inspirational. It is by examining that which seems certain about the life of George that we can begin to understand why he has been honoured, not just as our national patron saint, but as the patron saint of several countries.
Historians generally attest to George’s existence and to the likelihood of his being an officer in the Roman army. But, George lived in difficult times for those who wished to live out their lives as Christians. We are told that George ‘gave his goods to the poor, and openly professed Christianity’. Such words and actions would have labelled him as a certain victim of the Diocletian persecutions which were aimed at stamping out Christianity once and for all. It was this active discipleship of Christ that led to George’s martyrdom, and that, of course, is what stands in our way of following the example of St George – the risk of martyrdom.
In these days and in our country, people are not put to death over matters of faith, but there is still a feeling of persecution. Many people of many faiths feel persecuted for their adherence to a doctrines and practices that bring them closer to God. Being recognized as a person of faith is often seen as synonymous with being a weak and gullible person. Of course, the opposite is true. When we follow the call of God in our lives, when we pray and worship God in a spirit of genuine faith we are demonstrating a knowledge and strength that outstrips all that this world can offer us.
Let us pray for the strength and the courage to fight against the persecution of indifference, apathy and mockery. Let us pray that we might join our national patron in showing our love for Christ in all that we say and do.