This past Thursday night, my wife had a call from her doctor concerning some blood tests she had done earlier that day. The test result numbers were extremely high and concerning enough that the doctor asked her how quickly she could get to an emergency room for a CT Scan. The scan did not find any of the suspected issues but uncovered some concerning fluid build-up around the heart and lungs that led to an ambulance ride into one of the Boston Hospitals. As we sat and waited in the small emergency room, the movie Groundhog Day with Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell was playing on the TV screen. I had forgotten that today was groundhog day. While the movie is a comedy, it actually has some deep messages about life. If you have not seen it, it is worth checking out.
Bill Murray plays an arrogant, self-focused news weatherman, Phil Connors, who is focused on status, comfort and pleasure and is unhappy about covering the Groundhog event in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania again this year. His news partner, Rita, played by Andie MacDowell, is a person of virtue and a “nice girl” who is not into Phil’s type of fun that involves objectifying and using others for one’s own short-term pleasure. Each morning, Phil wakes up in Punxsutawney and has to relive the same day again and again. It takes Phil many tries to go from being frustrated, to taking advantage of the knowledge to use others for his own purposes, to finally seeing that none of those self-interested pursuits ever seem to satisfy. After may tries to dishonestly woo Rita into bed, he finally begins to appreciate her for who she is and wants to become the man she deserves – humble, honest, selfless, loving, and virtuous. In Hinduism, there is a belief that the eternal soul returns, through reincarnation, to a new body many times to learn new things each time and work through its karma. While I don’t believe in reincarnation itself and don’t think we would have the chance that Phil did to relive that same day again and again until we get it, I do believe we have many chances in this precious life to get God’s plan for us and trust it enough to live a life that does satisfy.
In Pope John Paul II’s incredibly deep and beautiful Theology of the Body, a person can only find his or her true self through sincere gift of oneself to another – full and unconditional love of another. Our human tendency to sin and pull away from that model leads to us focusing on what we get out of another and making them objects for our own purposes. When the focus is on our own desires, we become incapable of having the interior freedom to sincerely give ourselves to others. It is in that act of full and sincere gift of self that we actually see ourselves as God created us, to see the purpose for which he made us, and to realize the true joy and happiness he created us for. While Phil could have all the material goods, money, comforts, and women for sex he wanted, none of those things seemed to satisy. None of these brought him joy. It was finally in the selfless giving of self and pursuing a true relationship with dignity and respect for Rita and others, that he found satisfying joy, and found himself.
If you think about it a bit, it does make a lot of sense (even if it is opposite of our instinctive desire to follow our own self-interest vs. trusting in God’s plan). God lets us know that man and woman were made in the image of the Trinity (God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit) when he said, “Let us make man in our image.” God is three persons in one God – a community of love. God is love, and through Christ, shows us that God is total sincere gift of self in love. If we are made in God’s image, then it would make a lot of sense that we can only find out true self, made in God’s image, through that same sincere gift of self. We may think that in giving that we give up something, but, in God’s plans, the result is always the opposite – we need to die of self to live, we need to give to receive, we need to love unconditionally to fully know love. Sitting with my beloved wife in that emergency room and watching the ultrasound of her heart beating made me feel and think of many things. I thought about how precious each and every beat of that heart was and how it only happens through God. I thought of how much I love and cherish my wife and sharing life with her. And I thought of not waiting for any more Groundhog Days to embrace and trust in God’s plans for me, and to remind myself to turn toward Him and others in love vs. away from him in selfish pursuits that will never satisfy. Don't be afraid to pop your head out of the groundhog hole and see the light.