Everybody knows what a Cyclops is, right? It's that strange monster with one big eye in the middle of its forehead. And we think, what a bizarre creature, this Cyclops, with one big eye. But for 325 days of each year, we are all Cyclopes! Let me explain.
What's the first thing we think about each morning? "What am I going to do today? How will I do it? What will happen to me today? How will I feel today?" I, I, I! And all day long, we say to people, "I think this" and "I think that" and "I agree" and "I disagree" and "I like this" and "I don't like that." I, I, I! And what's the last thing we think about at night? "I really did a good job today" and "I wonder what I'll do tomorrow." I, I, I! There is ONE GREAT BIG "I" right in the middle of our foreheads! We are all Cyclopes!
The trouble with that, is that we can't see very well when we only have one eye. We're half blind. Everything looks flat and has no depth perception. The real beauty of the world is lost. Every day we see people walking around totally blind to the beautiful things around them, because they are too busy thinking, "What am I going to have for dinner tonight? What am I going to do in order to entertain myself?" I, I, I! All this focusing on our one big "I" leaves no energy to focus with our two eyes, and so we become blind to the real world around us.
In Greek mythology, the Cyclops was killed when they took his own sword and ran it through his one big eye. Well guess what? That's what we do in church on Ash Wednesday! We come forward and the minister writes a big "I" on your forehead, which stands for the one big "I" that we all have at the front of our minds, because we're Cyclopes. And then, like a brutal stroke of the sword, the minister will cross that "I" out, to symbolize that for these forty days of Lent, we are not really Cyclopes at all - that during Lent we won't focus on our one big "I" but that we will look outwards with our two real eyes and see other people for a change!
Lent is when we focus our attention on three practices: fasting, praying, and almsgiving. We fast to deprive ourselves of a basic necessity, which reminds us of our complete dependence on God, and for us to see what is missing in our relationship with Jesus Christ. We give because what we've been given by God was not meant for just us, but for us to share with others. And we pray because we are not totally self-sufficient. We have a need inside of us that cannot be filled by ourselves or by others. We have a holy longing, and find ourselves looking to God.
It's about going from ashes to the font; back to the font - to where it all started for us. To go back and denounce Satan and all his works and all his empty promises. But are we the people what we promised to be at that font? We are good people, and we were created by God to be good. But sometimes, we seem to falter and fall off of the path and find ourselves lost. We find the need to be refreshed, renewed, refueled, and restored. We want to take that "I" at the front of our minds and cross it out!
That's what Lent is all about: repentance, renewal, community, fasting, praying, and giving. God wants to be in relationship with us. God wants to take us back, and point us in the right direction once again. We just need to start today. We just need to make the next move.
Our challenge is to continue to refuel ourselves for this Lenten journey. And in every way we can this Lent, let's replace that "I" with "You" - not only in our words, but also in our thoughts and actions.