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It’s been two days since the world’s most renowned groundhog, Punxsutawny Phil, popped out of his burrow and saw his shadow, predicting six more weeks of winter. (For my international readers who are unfamiliar with Groundhog Day, go here to learn more).  Personally, I can’t make it through the second day of February each year without thinking about the 1993 movie, Groundhog Day, one of my all-time favorites, starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell.

In it, actor/comedian Murray, plays the part of Phil Connors, an abrasive and self-centered television weatherman who is sent on assignment along with his producer and cameraman to cover the annual Groundhog Day celebration in Punxsutawny, Pennsylvania.  During the festivities, Phil records his news report on the celebrated groundhog’s prediction with all the contempt for the “rat” (and the people of the town) that fits his egotistical personality.

In a kind of karma, Phil and team are forced to spend the night in the small town because of a severe winter storm which he failed to predict.  The following morning, Phil awakes in his hotel room bed and discovers it is February 2nd all over again, a deja vu which only he experiences.    Then, every morning afterwards, for what seems like a lifetime, he wakes at 6:00 a.m. to the same song on the radio only to find it is still February 2nd.

As the film progresses, Phil’s life progresses from denial to rebellion to despair and then finally to acceptance of his situation.  With acceptance, he learns to replace his pride with humility, his lust with love, and greed with generosity.  He learns the importance of beauty in life and placing others before himself.  In a sense, he is being refined each and every day that he is stuck in the seemingly endless time loop which only he experiences.  In the end, when he finally experiences the true meaning of selfless love, he wakes up one morning and it is February 3rd.

On Tuesday as I was reading the daily Scripture during my daily meditation I thought of this movie again.  For the last four years I have hi-lighted in yellow pencil the passages I have read each day, and underlined in red those phrases which the Holy Spirit put on my heart that day.  And, next to each, in pencil, I have written the date I meditated on that passage.  I’ve now been doing this long enough to see that I’ve read that same passage on or about the same date in a previous year.  

Many Catholics don’t know that the Church repeats the daily readings on a two-year cycle for weekdays, and a three-year cycle for Sundays.  I knew this and always thought it was simply an effective way to read almost the entire Bible over a three year period.  But, on Tuesday, I saw it differently.

In the first reading from Scripture that day, I read in Malachi 3:1-4, “For He will be like a refiner’s fire…” so that their offerings, “will please the Lord.”  It struck me that the only way we can grow in holiness is to continually be refined; that our purpose on earth is to be refined to the point where our final offering will, indeed, please the Lord and we will be united with Him in heaven.  

As Catholics, we don’t wake up to the same song every morning like Phil did, but our two or three year cycle does give us the opportunity to grow in holiness and virtue every day.  

For one who does not spend time in daily meditation listening to the Word of God and asking what His will is for them every day, it can be a difficult journey.  Without prayer and trusting in God to help, you can easily do like Phil, that is deny, rebel and despair when life doesn’t seem to get any better.  But when you spend time daily in conversation with Jesus and you’re docile to the Holy Spirit, and you accept and take responsibility for your faults and weaknesses, it becomes much easier to resolve to grow in virtue knowing you can trust in Him for help.  One day He may show you where your pride is strong and how to replace it with humility.  The next day the Word of God may lead you to growing in love and charity and away from lust or selfishness.  Still another day you may decide that you need to be more generous, or less envious, less angry, more grateful, or stronger in your faith.  Some days it will seem like you’re stuck in your own Groundhog Day (movie) time loop because you didn’t get it the first time…or the second.  But, with each conviction, you can resolve to become better in a particular aspect of your life every single day until your vices have been refined into sustainable virtues that “will please the Lord”.

My goal in life is to become a saint.  I want you to become one, too.  I would much prefer our refinement take place day by day here during our time on earth than when we have no control of it in Purgatory.  Ask the Lord to show you each day how you can grow in holiness, and pray for the grace to resolve to take action daily.  Even if they’re just baby steps, they’re still steps forward towards your goal.  A lifetime of baby steps will get us there.

“Heavenly Father, thank You for this day and every day that I have to grow closer to You.  I pray for the grace to make the most of them by living my life as You would have me live it, with humility, prudence, fortitude, justice, temperance, faith, hope and love.  Amen.”

(Groundhog Day was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

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