Would Jesus Excommunicate Someone?

23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time (A)

Excommunication is the harshest punishment the Church has at her disposal. It is a cutting off of a member from the Body of Christ, a declaration that this person is no longer in union with the Church, and by extension with God. When we think about Jesus’ life and ministry, it’s all about reconciliation; teaching us to love our neighbors and uniting us to God through his work of redemption. Excommunication seems like the opposite of all of that.

But in this Sunday’s gospel, Jesus tells the disciples that if someone sins against them and won’t listen to the Church’s admonishment and call for repentance, they are to be treated as a Gentile — as an outsider or “other.” What are we to make of this in light of Jesus’ commandment of love?