Monasteries of the Heart

An Empty Sack

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In an old issue of “Spirituality & Health” magazine, columnist Thomas Moore retells a story found in the Gospel of Thomas. It goes like this:

Jesus said,
“The Kingdom of Heaven
is like a woman who went to the village market
and bought a sack of grain.
There was a hole in the sack,
and on the way home the grain spilled out,
bit by bit, so that when she arrived home,
the sack was empty.”

What? The Kingdom of Heaven is an empty sack? In the column Moore wrote about how once he had a sack full of religious stuff that he had to lose before he came to value the “hole” in the sack. He came to appreciate how that emptying, the “hole,” led him to the gift of wonder.

I decided to write back to Moore.

Dear Thomas,
Once upon a time
I went to the monastery
and bought a sack of God—
I knew the life I had chosen was the better part and made me special to God.
I knew the prayers I said pleased God.
I knew what bows made God smile.
I knew what rituals gave God delight.
I knew how to be a monk that God applauded.
I knew what religious beliefs God approved.

Then my God-sack was punctured
and bit by bit
I started to lose my certainty, my righteousness, myself even.
Oh, wonder of wonders, I started to lose my self.

I, too, am stumbling home with an empty sack--
empty of positive, empty of sure, empty of direction….

Is this what the Kingdom of Heaven is like?