Everyone has ideas about how to make the Catholic Church more joyful, more welcoming, and more Christ-like.
From focusing on returning to a more traditional style of worship, to more frequently involving ourselves with helping the less fortunate, to a greater effort to join in fellowship outside of Mass, the Church is not lacking in small steps we could all take to grow in holiness personally and as the larger Body of Christ.
And yet, there’s one simple step we could take right now that could cause a more dramatic change than all the others:
Assume good intentions.
While we all know Jesus’ command about “judging not,” most of the time we just can’t seem to get it together.
When we see a couple at Mass with just one kid while we’re busy trying to wrestle a small circus into submission, we assume they’ve decided to be one and done for the sake of having an easy life. When we witness someone cutting us off as we humbly try to exit the Church parking lot, we assume they’re a jerk. When we see someone we know used to be married standing alone at the donuts and coffee without a ring, we assume they didn’t give the marriage their all.
When it comes to assuming bad intentions, we’re pros.
But what would happen, if we used every ounce of our mental fortitude to assume the best of everyone, even in the face of evidence to the contrary?
What if we assumed that the couple with just one kid was doing their very best to be open to life? What if we assumed that the person racing out of the Church parking lot was rushing home to take care of a family member in need? What if we assumed that the formerly married person now standing alone did absolutely everything they could to save their marriage and the effort just wasn’t reciprocated?
What would happen is we would grow in empathy for our fellow brother and sister. We would begin to see that all of us are walking along our own journey, and for the most part, we are all doing the very best we can at any given time in our lives.
What would happen is the Church would become a truly open and welcoming place for all sinners, not just those who have “come to know better,” and people would begin to return to the faith after seeing the witness of assuming the good in others.
If we want our Church to grow, if we want the Good News of Jesus Christ to be heard and accepted throughout the world, our best first step may be to assume good intentions for all those people he died for and loves beyond measure.
He assumes the best about everyone, in spite of knowing absolutely everything about each and every one of us. All He’s asking is that we do the same.
Copyright 2016 Tommy Tighe