In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus teaches His disciples how they are to deal with a fellow disciple who sins and yet remains within the community. First, the correction should be done in private; if this doesn’t work, then correction should be done in the presence of two or three witnesses; if this fails, then the matter is to be brought before the Church. If the sinner still refuses to be corrected, then he is to be expelled from the Church. To be expelled from the Church is no small matter, because the Church’s judgment will be ratified by God in heaven; Jesus said: “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 18:18); if the sinner does not repent and reconcile with the Church, then the excommunication remains eternally binding.
In his Letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul urges the early Christians in Corinth to maintain their inner purity by disassociating with sinners within the community; he wrote: “But I now write to you not to associate with anyone named a brother, if he is immoral, greedy, an idolater, a slanderer, a drunkard, or a robber, not even to eat with such a person.” (1Cor 5:11)
According to the Catechism: Certain particularly grave sins incur excommunication, the most severe ecclesiastical penalty, which impedes the reception of the sacraments and the exercise of certain ecclesiastical acts, and for which absolution consequently cannot be granted, according to Canon Law, except by the Pope, the bishop of the place or priests authorized by them. (CCC 1463)
What exactly is excommunication? Excommunication is a penalty imposed by the Church; it is a kind of penalty known as a “censure,” which aims to break a person’s stubbornness and make him realize his wrongdoing, so that he can repent and return to the Church.
Under the 1917 Code of Canon Law, an excommunicated person was excluded from the communion of the faithful (can. 2257 §1), pretty much in the way described by Matthew’s Gospel and St. Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians. However, this was not carried over in the 1983 Code of Canon Law; therefore, at the present time, a person who has been excommunicated does not mean that he is “kicked out” of the Church. Instead, a revision to the Code of Canon Law made in 2021 prohibits an excommunicated person from doing certain things within the Church (can. 1331); e.g., receiving the sacraments and taking an active part in church celebrations. Excommunicated persons can still come to Mass, but they are prohibited from performing ministerial duties; for example, distributing Holy Communion or reading at Mass.
It is important to remember that the Church imposes penalties like excommunication, not for the purpose of keeping sinners out of the church, but as a “medicine” to “wake up” sinners into realizing their wrongdoing and spur them to repentance and reconciliation with God and the Church. Even as Jesus, in Matthew’s Gospel, sounds pretty harsh in expelling sinners who refuse to be corrected from the Church; Jesus, in Luke’s Gospel, teaches us God’s love and mercy in the parable of the prodigal son, who after realizing his wrongdoing and repenting, was welcomed back into his father’s house (cf. Luke 15:11-32).
The small group reflection for September 10 is now available. You can pick up a copy in the church foyer or find it in our church website: hnojatl.org or in the Tabella app.
Printed copies of the Financial Statement for fiscal year 2022 to 2023, ending in June 30, 2023 are available with this Sunday’s church bulletin. Thank you for your support!
GRACE Scholars, Inc. has funds available for the upcoming school year to provide scholarships to students who wish to enroll in our Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Atlanta. These funds are intended only for families in financial need in order to give their children an opportunity to have a Catholic school education. If you are interested, please contact Fr. Bill for guidance and assistance.
Our potluck lunch for the month of September will be on the 17th. The theme is “Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival”!
Our church GARAGE SALE will be on Saturday, October 7 from 8:00 AM to 2:00 PM. Please check if you have clothes, household and gift items in good condition to donate. You may bring your donated items to the church beginning in September. Thank you for your support!
Parish Council meets at 12:30pm today in the Conference Room.
Prayer List: Andrew Chen, Chen Jianxin, Alexis Lam, Stephen Lam, Liang Chenjing, Pan Bohao, Long Guorui, Rosa Wang and Xu Taicheng.