Baptism is one of the three sacraments of initiation in our faith community. The other two are Confirmation and Eucharist. With Baptism, the door is opened into a community of faith and we begin a journey that joins us with other Christians in a relationship with Jesus Christ. We call this relationship – discipleship. Along with our fellow believers we spend our lives nurturing this relationship, learning what it means for us and growing in our faith. In the end, this is a life-giving adventure which brings meaning to our lives.
In the Gospel of John there is a wonderful story that helps us to see the importance of the faith community in our personal relationship with God through Jesus. (Jn.20:19-31) John describes the disciples of Jesus after the crucifixion. They are cowering in a locked room, fearing that they were going to be next on the cross. Gathered together, they experience the presence of the risen Jesus with them in that room. Jesus greets them with “Peace be with you.”
This experience of the presence of the risen Jesus that they had together broke through the isolation and fear that the disciples face in that locked room. It opened the eyes of faith to see that the Spirit of Jesus continued among them and would bring them peace and strength for their journey. In addition, it opened them to realize that they had a mission, the same mission Jesus had shared with them – the reign of God was building in our world. They now had this mission to share as Good News for all peoples.
One of the disciples, Thomas was not present at the time of their experience. Later when they told him what had taken place, he refused to believe. His journey of faith had not begun. A week later, when the disciples again gathered in that room Thomas was with them. Again they experienced the presence of the risen Jesus. Thomas’ eyes of faith were opened as he gathered with the other disciples. He immediately believed and joined in the mission they were given to share.
This story is one of Christian faith. Discipleship is a community call. In community, the disciples discovered faith their Risen Lord. Separated from t he community, Thomas was unable to believe. It was only when back with the circle of the disciples that his faith came to recognize this presence of the risen Jesus.
Faith in Jesus, Christian faith while it is personal, is not a private affair. We need a community of faith to assist and support us. We need a community of faith to join us in our journey. We need a community of faith with whom we can share our faith. We are to be a community on mission sharing the Good News. None of us can do this alone. Baptism is a step into this community of faith. But it is only the first of many steps that we need to walk with others in this journey. To be a baptized Christian, is to be Christian with others, for sake of others in our world.