In the movie Groundhog Day Bill Murray’s character, Phil, ends up experiencing the same day over and over again as he reports on the appearance of the famous groundhog and whether winter will continue or spring will set in. Phil’s character is arrogant, self-centered, and only out for himself. He doesn’t truly care for anyone other than himself.
Phil becomes trapped in time on groundhog day. Every morning he wakes up in bed in his hotel and hears the same thing from the radio alarm clock by his bed, no matter where he was the night before. He tried to leave the town, but the road is blocked by a blizzard. He tries everything he can think of, but he’s completely trapped. He doesn’t move on until he learns humility and starts to treat other people as people without worrying about whether or not it will help himself.
We also get trapped repeating the same patterns over and over again, and I’m not talking about getting stuck in a rut or feeling bored with our lives. We seem to get trapped in our sins, repeating the same sinful behaviors over and over. It can seem impossible to get out of these cycles, and we’re sometimes temped to lose hope and give in to despair. However, we know that God doesn’t want us to stay in our sins. Jesus Christ came down to free us from sin. He doesn’t just forgive our sins; He also gives us the help of His grace to truly overcome them in our lives.
There are certain tactics that we can use to overcome our sins, depending on the particular sin we’re struggling with, and we should talk with our confessor or spiritual director about our specific situation. However, when we’re truly stuck there’s one thing that’s absolutely necessary. We must learn humility. Even if we do everything else right, if we’re prideful in thinking that we will overcome our sins through our own efforts, then the Lord will allow us to stay in our sins rather than allow us to overcome them only to be trapped in the worse sin of pride. If we humble ourselves by recognizing that God alone can free us from our sins, then He will give us the grace to break free.
To humble ourselves, we should pray every day for help overcoming our sin. Pray for help for that day, and name the sin that you need help with. In this way we humble ourselves by admitting our weakness and asking God for His strength. Then, we have to show that we’re serious about rejecting sin. We do this by fasting. Traditionally, Catholics fasted by abstaining from eating meat on all Fridays of the year, not just Lent. A lot of people in south Louisiana think that’s kind of meaningless since our seafood is so good. Well, in that case, you can either take it further and also abstain from seafood, or you can choose something else to fast from, like only drinking water, or giving up TV or the internet. Whatever you give up, it shouldn’t make you absolutely miserable, but it should make a difference and be something that you truly miss. If you don’t drink coffee, then giving up coffee isn’t really fasting.
There’s a story about a priest complaining to St. John Vianney that Church was dying out even though he’d tried everything he could think of. St. John Vianney asked him if he had prayed and fasted for them. Prayer and Fasting are powerful spiritual tools, because they teach us to give up our pride and rely on the help of God.
Fr. Bryan was pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes from July 3, 2017 to June 2022.