Churches that follow the liturgical year are now in a season known as “ordinary time” that stretches from late spring until deep in the fall.
The word ordinary in this sense does not mean common or normal. It simply refers to a period of time in which the weeks are numbered. Yet because it is a long season, it is easy to lapse into a mindset that views each day as being predictable and not worthy of our best efforts. And as I thought about this recently, I was reminded of a movie that offers a lesson here.
In “Groundhog Day”, a 1993 film, Bill Murray plays an obnoxious weatherman, Phil Connors, who is sent to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, to cover the annual ground hog day event. He gets snowed in and has to spend the night in the town. But what starts out as just an overnight stay becomes an endless repetition of Connors’ having to relive the same day. He is awakened each morning by his clock radio blaring Sonny and Cher’s “I’ve Got you Babe” followed by the same announcement. Then as he moves through the day, he encounters the same people who say the same things.
With some experimenting, he finds that everyone else seems doomed to repeating their daily scripts while he can change his. At first, his being able to remember the previous day’s events – unlike everyone else – provides Connors with a humorous advantage, but the novelty of this wears thin, and he starts to seek ways to break out of this twilight zone existence. Out of desperation, he presumably kills himself, only to be awakened once again by the clock radio. Consequently, he chooses another tack: He uses his knowledge of what the day will bring to help other people rather than to take advantage of them. Finally, after more repeats of the same day with Connors’ choosing to be helpful rather than selfish, he is able to break out of the loop and move on with his life.
One could say the movie is about the choices we make each day, about a guy who has to keep doing it until he gets it right. But unlike Phil Connors’ fictional experience, we do not get a “do over.” When we mess up, when we choose badly, we are not automatically reset for another try. To use an old VHS term, our day is not rewound. Yet with each new sunrise, we are given another opportunity to live our life a bit better than we did the day before.
So, each morning we would do well to remember the psalmist’s challenge: “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Whether we are in ordinary season or some other time of the year, our Creator has given us the gift of another 24 hours, another chance to make better choices, another opportunity to learn from our mistakes. Let us then meet that daily challenge with joy and gladness.