Our faith experience as Christian-Catholics is a communal one, not just a personal one. This is why Mass and worshiping together is so important. It is also why we celebrate our sacraments, particularly our sacraments of initiation as a community. The sacraments of initiation include baptism, communion, and confirmation.
Baptism is the first that we receive when we join the church either as an infant or when we chose to become Catholic of our own accord. Regardless of your age when being baptized, the purpose is to cleanse away original sin and fill us with sanctifying grace, or the presence of God in hearts and souls. Baptism claims us for Christ and introduces us as members of the greater Christian community. That is why if a Catholic chooses another denomination or vice versa, we don't re-baptize. Regardless of when, how, and where, our baptism claims us for God and gives us the grace to follow God's teachings.
So where does the community fit into all of this?
Firstly, baptism initiates the baptized into the community as a whole. It is also when parents get to present the newest member of their family to the entire church family. Secondly, it is an opportunity for the entire community to pray for their newest members, with special attention being paid by the godparents to the little one. Thirdly, it is a chance to celebrate the decision to join the church, whether with a simple applause or cake afterwards, it is always a joyous occasion when the church welcomes its newest members.
Matthew 28 verses 16 through 20 are one of the many instances that Jesus institutes baptism. Take time today to consider what your baptism means to you and what the baptism of others means to you and your community. Do you recognize that you are claimed for and belong to Christ and the Christian community? Do you celebrate each new baptism or look at your watch in frustration? When the day comes that you baptize your own children, are you prepared to raise them in that Christian community or help a friend or family member as a godparent? We are called to look past our own religious experience and help others reach Christ and baptism is one of the sacraments that allows for this.
Yesterday's Gospel features one of the most well-known of Jesus' parables, about the seed that falls on rich soil and yields a fruitful harvest. Lucky for us, and unlike the soil in the parable, we actually have a choice in what kind of soil we will be. Whether we are rocky, choked with thorns, or rich; it is determined by our actions and decisions.
We ensure that we are rich soil when we:
Seek the Word of God
By surrounding ourselves and purposefully enriching our lives with the Word, we can avoid becoming choked out with thorns. It is one thing to hear the Word but another entirely to continue to seek it after hearing for the first time. Hearing it once and doing nothing after prevents the seeds of faith from taking any sort of root. We should continually seek opportunities to learn about and from the Word.
Cultivate Your Surroundings
Your harvest is as much of a product of your environment as you are. We are most similar to the people we spend the most time with; what are they like? When we surround ourselves with others who seek God, who pray, who try to understand the Word, we are supported in our own intention to seek and find God. No plant would thrive in the wrong environment and no one will find any sort of success if they don't put themselves in a place that supports them and their heavenly goals.
Rest in God
Farmers have to rotate fields ever so often because otherwise, the soil will become exhausted. They have to allow it time to replenish the minerals and other nutrients hidden in the soil so that in a few years, it can yield a fruitful harvest again. We also need time to rest. We have to give ourselves time to just rest in God's presence, whether that be in calm adoration, silent prayer, or just being with God. We can't "yield" constantly, and God understands that. Don't exhaust yourself trying to yield more; just like in the parable, we will each have different yields. What is important is that we yield at all.
How can you do each of these today? Perhaps by taking the time to read the daily readings or another kind of devotional. Make an effort to spend time with someone who helps you feel closer to, rather than further from, God. Or you could just make time for positive music or other media. You can also make time for a quiet, peaceful time in God's presence, whatever that means for you. By taking the time to cultivate yourself, God will be able to use to a greater purpose and bring others into God's loving presence.