We watched Groundhog Day last night. What a great movie. And a great Catholic movie.
You know the story. If you don’t, you should. Weatherman Phil Connors gets trapped in one day until he learns how to live his life to the fullest.
At first, he uses his time to follow his bliss, borrowing the Joseph Campbell phrase. He overeats, lies, steals, carouses (keeping it all rated G here) with women, drinks, smokes, messes with the cops you name it — there are no rules, and no consequences. Some might fantasize that that is a perfect world. But he is not satisfied.
Phil falls into despair and spends the next series of days killing himself, over and over and over again. But that does not end his despair.
Lonely and trapped he spends time with the townspeople and kills time by learning things — like French, mostly to get people close to him. But he is still alone.
Then, he begins to help people, starting with the old beggar. When the old man dies, Phil has his first moment of clarity. He looks up to God for answers and realizes if he can’t save the old man, surely there are others he can help. So he starts searching, and finds many.
That goodness leads the life he was meant to lead. On a mission of love. On his last February 2, his day and night is spent completely in the service of others. Before he falls asleep he says to Rita:
no matter what happens tomorrow, or for the rest of my life, I’m happy now.
And with that he is released so he can live.
Some think that Phil spent 8 years living one single day to learn how to live he rest of his life. Others, have it as many as 33 years.
God has given us a lifetime. It’s up to us how long we are trapped.
Today’s reading really brought it all back home to me.
“Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.” Luke 34-36