Sunday, 24 April 2016

The Witness of Faith

What is it about someone's faith journey that makes them into an acknowledged Saint?  Yes, I am aware that there is a whole ecclesiastical rigmarole around the granting of sainthood in the Catholic tradition, otherwise almost everyone would be considered a saint one way or another.  In the Anglican tradition it is somewhat less hierarchical but it is a consensus means of recognition from the local to the National and thus onto the international stage so to speak.  The question though still remains as to what constitutes sainthood within the life of the person.

As we celebrate the patronal festival of St George's, Applecross it is a worthwhile question to ask ourselves.  We also need to ask a further question with regards to St George as he is considered a martyr, so what is or who is a martyr?  I think, we may simply answer that one by saying that it is that the person died for the cause but is that right?  Everyone eventually dies and if they have an outstanding faith have they to not died for the cause as they have given their lives to their faith? Perhaps.  However, we must not loose sight of the fact that a martyr is only a witness to their faith and their death is a minor detail. Although we often remember them for their deaths, it is their lives that are more important.

Christ tells us that we will be persecuted as a result of our faith and the non acceptance of God in others lives (Jn 14.20-21).  It is something that we need to expect if we are living a Christian life and out of God's boundless grace comes our encouragement to proclaim our faith in the world despite the risk of persecution. Today we celebrate, St George, who out of the courage of his lived faith was able to defy an Emperor.  His holding to his faith in everyday life meant more to him then live itself.  Some perhaps would have classified him as foolish when he defied Emperor Diocetlian.  Even today we would perhaps not class his actions as imbued with wisdom especially considering it led to his loosing his head.

Can we slay the dragons within our own communities?

It may be unlikely that we ourselves will be in a situation that would lead to a lose of life in the literal sense.  However, in a more proverbial sense we may still sacrifice ourselves with the grace of God to honour and live up to our faith.  Social ostracisation is perhaps the greatest death we will endure in this day and age in this country.  The fear of which can lead to our compromising the faith we should be living by.  The Christian faith journey is one which we travel as we grow closer to Christ.  It means that we must truly accept the challenges that Christ's example brings to our lives and by God's grace live them out to the fullest.  The constancy of communal worship is not our or should not be our sole purpose in being a Christian.  The challenge is to accept the risen Christ as part of our daily lives.  This does not mean that we over play our Christianity, shouting Allelulia every second chance we get nor is about hiding it away so that nobody can identify us as part of a faith tradition.

The saints and martyrs of today are those that live out the vision of Christ in their daily lives.  Our concern is not so much about what others think us, it is about showing others the presence of Christ in our living.  Each of us is made in the image of God which means that everyone, irrespective of race, creed or gender, is an image of God. We are asked to witness to God and Christ by accepting that identification.  We witness to Christ by standing up within our local, national and international communities to identify those difficult to hold ideals of justice, freedom, peace and love.  We make an effort not to be hypocritical in our lives as individuals and communities, by stating one thing in communal worship and doing another when in the community.  It is about identifying within ourselves those things that we accept which are contrary to our beliefs.

Living our lives as Christ is not easy, ask the saints and martyrs of history. It does not matter what era you live in the faith path is one that is fraught with difficulty.  It places us outside the norm of society, or it should do.  Indeed we can see this because we fear, ostracise and allow ourselves to hate those who do.  We just need to look at our treatment of those who follow their own faith journey religiously.  We join the ranks of those who do not know God when we do this as we do not place our trust in God's presence and grace but rather fear the life of witness and faith.  Instead we need to martyr ourselves for our faith by living that faith in a genuine desire to bring God's love into the hearts and minds of our communities.  We should be able to trust our faith ad not fear the other whose journey while different to ours may also be about that same love and embodiment of God in their lives. So let us put St Georges life, not death, in our minds as we witness as he did to our communities this day.

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