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.