“Walk with Your Feet on Earth, But in Your Heart be in Heaven”
A Reflection on Matthew 10:16-23
(Image from Noelle Buske, “Bare Feet and Wet Sand”)
The Church exists in three theological dimensions: the Church Militant on earth, the Church Suffering in purgatory, and the Church Triumphant in heaven. After reading this Gospel, you can understand why we call the Church on earth, “The Church Militant.” It is the Church on earth which exists within the grace of Christ, to confront evil, and through proclamation of the Gospel, seek holiness, justice, and peace through conversion of hearts. This conversion is a turning toward, and a living in, the grace and light of Christ.
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What is it that the Church will confront? Jesus tells us today. In Matthew 10:11-15, Jesus told the Apostles that as they proclaim the Gospel that they will be both welcomed and rejected. Next, He tells them in Matthew 10:12-23, that this rejection will take the form of slander (v. 25), persecution (vv. 17–18, 23), hatred (v. 22), and betrayal (v. 21). For all who have stepped outside their fear and hesitation to deliver the peace and hope that the Gospel gives, know that Jesus, as we should expect, had it exactly right. He is not trying to scare us. He does want us to know that the task given to each one of us is challenging but we should in no way shrink back from our task in fear. Instead, as we encounter resistance, we should rejoice; for in the confrontation with active resistance to the Gospel, portals of grace are opened as chinks in the armor of the other are exposed. Being a part of this, we too, are greatly blessed!
Jesus tells the people gathered on the Mount of the Beatitudes:
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. (Matthew 5:10–12 NABRE):
The word “blessed”, in Greek, is makariŏs (μακάριος). It means, supremely happy, highly fortunate, extremely well off. The world often describes happiness as the pursuit and attainment of pleasure. Jesus is telling us to look beyond the pursuit and attainment of pleasure that has its focus on me, at the expense of the other. Bishop Robert Barron in his book, The Strangest Way, writes,
“From a Christian standpoint, the relentless pursuit of pleasure (or, what often amounts to the same thing, the flight from pain) undermines the mission, since the mission is tied to neither pleasure nor pain.” (Barron, The Strangest Way: Walking the Christian Path)
It is the strangest way. The Christian defines happiness as “the fulfillment of our vocation as creatures” and hence, “a sharing in the divine nature and the vision of God” (CCC Glossary). St John Bosco put it very succinctly. Happiness is to,
“Walk with your feet on earth, but in your heart be in heaven.” (YOUCAT 52)
We are sent on mission into the world to proclaim the Gospel. When it becomes difficult, even to the point of personal loss, do not worry for your words, given prayerfully through the Holy Spirit, make up a great tapestry of action that may bring the one who persecutes you to heaven, where true, complete unabandoned happiness subsists eternally. Feet on earth, heart in heaven.
Every day, our true joy is found in “the mission”. Walking the way of the martyr, one who courageously witnesses to the joy of heaven, often at the expense of their life. It is an exceptional gift and is the fullest proof of love of both God and neighbor. Through martyrdom we are transformed into an image of our Lord. (LG 42). We are not a people of fear for what may happen to us if we boldly proclaim the Gospel. As sheep sent out among wolves, we go boldly, wise as servants and as gentle as doves with our hearts firmly rooted in heaven. In the act of loving God and neighbor, we are blessed, we are confident, and we are happy.
In the arms of Jesus, in the eternity of heaven, “[we] shall rest and see, we shall see and love, we shall love and praise.” (St Augustine as quoted in CCC 1720) St Peter tells the early Church:
Beloved, do not be surprised that a trial by fire is occurring among you, as if something strange were happening to you. But rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly. (1 Peter 4:12–13 NABRE)
Therefore, “walk with your feet on earth, but in your heart be in heaven.” Rejoice in His grace! Our hearts captured in an eternal moment of love.
Barron, Robert. The Strangest Way: Walking the Christian Path (p. 66). Orbis Books. Kindle Edition.
Buske, Noelle. “Bare Feet and Wet Sand.” FLICKR, 14 Jan. 2014. Accessed 1 July 2022.
Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC). 2nd Ed. Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 2000. Print.
Catholic Church. “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church: Lumen Gentium.” Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011. Print.
New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE). Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011. Print.
YOUCAT: Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church. Trans. Michael J. Miller. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011. Print.