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Don’t Be Afraid To “Cross The Line” For Jesus!

 

“There was a preacher once who was saying to the congregation, ‘It is wrong to steal horses.’ The congregation answered, ‘Amen,amen.’ ‘It is wrong to steal cows.’ ‘Amen, Amen!’ Then he said, ‘It is wrong to steal chickens.’ And someone shouted back, ‘Now he is meddling.’ Up until that point, conscience was not touched.” (Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen)

I recently wrote a blog post about the need for Catholics to take action against some of President Obama’s policies, mainly his health care plan and the HHS mandate. My analysis was clear and to the point – there are provisions in this plan that oppose Catholic teaching and, following the lead of our bishops, we must speak out and take action. While I expected some opposition (mainly from non-Catholics), I wasn’t prepared for what I received…FROM CATHOLICS!

Here’s a sample…

For the first time, a health care plan addresses the lack of health coverage for 60 million Americans who had been up to now left to die on the side of the road until the Good Samaritan bill was passed.

OK, not bad…some editorializing, but still respectful. Things start to go downhill with the next response…

I don’t think that our religion should have anything to do with politics. That is what is so great about our religion, it is the one true church but we aren’t taught to force our religion on people. If we did we would be looked at just as the Protestant church is. The Supreme Court ruling does go against some of the church’s teachings, but it is also for many of the teachings. Let’s not forget that 6 of the justices are Catholic.

A little more direct, but not really nasty. Then I got this one…

Certainly, everyone is entitled to their opinion but I find it improper for Gary Zimak to have the gall to think he speaks for all Catholics. This man is not a Bishop, Priest, or even a Brother for the Church. From where does his authority spring forth? I am wary of any person who speaks or writes in the name of God and doesn’t use Scripture…Yes…abortion is wrong. Yes…its even murder. However, Barack Obama is not a supporter of abortion! Some people do support it and use it as an after-the-fact form of birth control. That is murder. But then others, like Obama simply say that government will not regulate it by making it against the law.

This gentlemen finishes his comments with…

The conservative right (which I would never call religious) are the ones who DO NOT CARE ABOUT THE POOR as Jesus did. They love money, not God or their fellow man. Zimak derided the recent Supreme Court decision. Why? He is a rich white man! He doesn’t care about how the needy are finally getting health care reform that will help the poor and middle class! I am disgusted by those who would use Catholicism to further their own personal agenda. Those are the people Jesus called “Vipers!”

As a Catholic evangelist, I often write and say things that are met with resistance. As long as I stick to generalities (“God loves us”, “We can all be a little nicer”, “Prayer is effective”, etc.), then everyone is happy and nobody gets offended. However, the minute I start to challenge people’s beliefs or practices, the negative comments begin to flow. A few years ago, I wrote an article, “Ten Facts Most Catholics Don’t Know (But Should)”. For the most part, it was very well received. However, when one diocesan newspaper picked it up, the readers went crazy! My assertions on the all male priesthood, the Bible being compiled by the Catholic Church and all salvation taking place through the Church were met with the following comments…

“I wonder if Mr. Zimak realizes who his audience is. Some American Catholics are critical thinkers.”

“It is with dismay that I read the article by Gary Zimak in the guest commentary. He purports to be the founder of Following The Truth ministries. I am doubly troubled that you him as an authority of sorts. May I please know the authority by which this lay apostolate says he speaks for the Roman Catholic Church regarding women priests? What in fact are his credentials for representing the Vatican in any way?”

“We were rather startled by the guest commentary by Gary Zimak in the July 30th issue. We think that Mr. Zimak is a questionable source at best…As for No Salvation Outside of the Church, perhaps someone should explain the teachings of Vatican II to Mr. Zimak. He seems to have stopped his belief in Catholic teachings at the Council of Trent.”

“Then there was Gary Zimak’s statement that “Women will never be priests”. (Gary, didn’t your mother tell you ‘never say never?)”

“I wondered what you had in mind when selecting the piece for publication. It provided no new insights, but instead the same old worn out points that are often made by some finger-shaking, pre-Vatican II conservative ‘traditional’ Roman Catholics…Certainly, the piece did not contain any new, enlightened points of view that would pique the interest of forward looking, contemporary Christians searching for new understanding.”

And my personal favorite…

“Today I read ‘Ten Facts Most Catholics Don’t Know’ with the smirking picture of the author…”

Our Catholic Church teaches that we MUST evangelize. This requires us to charitably share the truth with others. Depending on just how much of the truth we share, however, we’re eventually going to be met with resistance. It happened to the prophets, it happened to the Apostles and it happened to Jesus. Our Lord warns of this with His chilling words:

“Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three; father will be divided against his son and a son against his father, a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” (Luke 12:51-53)

As Catholics, we must be willing to speak the truth, even if it makes someone angry. We live in a world that is filled with darkness. Many people do not want to learn the truth because it is in direct conflict with a sinful and selfish lifestyle. While the world may not WANT to hear the truth, the world NEEDS to hear the truth and it is our responsibility to proclaim it. A close friend (and excellent writer), Shane Kapler, wrote an excellent article in which he discusses the “Caricature Jesus”. In Shane’s words…

We prefer an imaginary Jesus, who forgives our failings but makes no demands. The imaginary Jesus never gets upset – unless it’s at religious bullies, and they’ve got it coming, don’t they? He came to relieve suffering (because pain, not separation from God, is the ultimate evil) and to teach us that if we’ll just be “tolerant” enough of everyone else’s opinion (translation = truth does not exist in fact; truth is what we individually believe it to be), peace will finally come.

Unfortunately, despite some people wanting to believe otherwise, the teachings of Jesus Christ as presented through His Church are very concrete and real. They cannot, and should not, be watered down or ignored simply to avoid conflict. As Catholics we have the duty to speak the truth, even if it means “crossing the line”. Jesus warned us of the hatred that we’d experience, but He also promised a great reward…

You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved. (Matthew 10:22)

“Sunday Sunset” Debuts This Sunday!

 

Looking for a great way to end your Sunday?

Want to unite in prayer with Christians around the world without leaving your home?

Need some strength in preparing for the week ahead?

Do you need relief from your anxiety?

Would you like the Lord’s peace to fill your heart?

My new 15 minute Internet radio program may be just what you need! On Sunday, June 24th at 8 PM Eastern time “Sunday Sunset with Gary Zimak” will debut on BlogTalkRadio. Join me in praying the Night Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours and for some reflections on the day’s Gospel reading. Each Sunday, we’ll get together to pray and reflect on the Lord and His providence.

How can you listen?

Simply click on the following link at 8 PM Eastern on Sunday and the show will begin to play. If you’d like an email reminder, you can follow the link now and click on the clock icon (next to the program date).

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/gzimak/2012/06/25/sunday-sunset

If you can’t listen live, the podcast will be available in the BlogTalkRadio archives and iTunes and you can access it from my regular BlogTalkRadio page:

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/gzimak

I hope you can join me as we gather together over the Internet. No matter where we live geographically, the miracle of technology allows us to unite as brothers and sisters in Christ. I’m looking forward to praying with you on Sunday…

please invite a friend!

Join The Fraternity Of Kindness

 

(Listen to Following The Truth on BlogTalkRadio every Friday at 8 PM Eastern as Gary discusses the book, “The Hidden Power Of Kindness” by Father Lawrence Lovasik!)

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-2)

In my life as a Christian, one of the most difficult things for me to do is to love everyone. Even though Jesus commands me to do this (John 13:34-35, 15:12, Matthew 5:43), loving everyone does not come easy for me. While it’s easy for me to love people who are nice to me, I have a REALLY hard time loving those who don’t love me back. Although it’s difficult, I need to take the Lord’s command seriously IF I expect to get to Heaven! Fortunately, I recently ran across a very simple method of putting Jesus’ instruction into practice.

In his book, The Hidden Power Of Kindness, the late Fr. Lawrence Lovasik urges that we all become members of the Fraternity of Kindness.

This “organization” has no officers, no meetings and no dues. In fact, its rules are simple. There are three little don’ts and three little do’s. Brilliant in their simplicity, these do’s and don’ts will put us on the right track for loving everyone:

DON’TS
1. Don’t speak unkindly of anyone.
2. Don’t speak unkindly to anyone.
3. Don’t act unkindly toward anyone.

DO’S
1. Do speak kindly of someone at least once a day.
2. Do think kindly of someone at least once a day.
3. Do act kindly toward someone at least once a day.

If we violate any of these rules, Fr. Lovasik suggests the following actions:

1. Make a brief act of contrition (ex. “My Jesus, mercy!”)
2. Offer an apology, if possible.
3. Say a little prayer for the one to whom you have been unkind.

Although the Fraternity of Kindness is not an official group, living by these “do’s and don’ts” will allow you to follow the Lord’s command to “love one another” and keep you on the road to Heaven. Just don’t forget to ask the Lord for the grace necessary to carry them out. If we try to do this on our own, it’s not easy, but…

“With God nothing will be impossible!” (Luke 1:37)

If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. (1 John 4:20)

Empty Churches – Where Should We Draw The Line?

 

“Religion is popular only when it ceases to be truly religious. Religion by its very nature is unpopular – certainly unpopular with the ego.” (Archbishop Fulton J Sheen)

Recently, an interesting article was brought to my attention. Appearing in The Morning Call (Allentown, PA), the point was raised that organized religion was on the decline throughout the area. More and more, organized religion is coming under attack, as evidenced by the recent YouTube video “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus”. While the idea of individuals creating their own personal version of Jesus’ teachings is nothing new, this philosophy is now creeping into organized religion. Evidence of this can be seen in a comment made by Rev. Tony Sundermeier, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Allentown (in the above article):

“We create a space for different ways for people to engage with God. I still think people are spiritual and religious. It’s just not orthodox Christianity they’re looking for.”

Reaching Out or Dumbing Down?
In an attempt to reach out and bring people back to church, some Christian churches are bending over backward to give the people what they want, rather than what they need. If the teachings of Jesus are too challenging, let’s change them so that they are more appealing. Strong evidence of this can be seen in the churches that proclaim the “health and wealth gospel”. Sometimes referred to as prosperity theology, the message is that faithful believers will be rewarded with financial wealth. While this can be an attractive message, it is certainly not the message lived and proclaimed by Jesus Christ. Additionally, some churches water down their teaching to make it more “user friendly” and appealing. In other words, let’s make going to church fun. If we take away the negativity and challenging doctrine, then people will come back in droves. Sadly, I’ve even seen this in some Catholic parishes and it is a big mistake. Christians deserve the truth and not a watered down message that “feels good”. For, although it might feel good now, a diluted set of religious doctrine isn’t going to help us get to Heaven! The question that must be asked is, although it may attract more people to church (and even this is debatable), what good does it do to remove the difficult, but necessary, aspects of Christianity?

What Does The Bible Say?
While I don’t claim to have all the answers, I do know that the Bible provides some valuable clues about truth. In his letter to Timothy, Saint Paul states that God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tm 2:4). That statement implies that absolute truth exists, God wants us to know that truth, and learning and obeying it will allow us to get to Heaven. Given that statement, it’s easy to see why distorting that truth could be problematic. While I understand why this is being done, what is the point of getting people in your church if you’re not going to give them the teaching that they need to one day achieve salvation?

There is no doubt that the truth will cause division, but that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be spoken. What does Jesus have to say about the truth?

“Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division; for henceforth in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against her mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” (Lk 12:51-53)

Furthermore, the words of Jesus as He commissioned the Apostles affirms the importance of always preaching the whole truth:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Mt 28:19-20)

Note that Jesus didn’t say to share only His pleasant and less challenging teachings…He said to teach ALL that He commanded. This includes unpopular and difficult teachings, even if they’re met with resistance. Jesus encountered this difficulty first hand when He taught about the necessity of the Eucharist for salvation. In His Bread of Life discourse (Jn 6: 22-71), when He proclaimed that “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, you have no life within you” (Jn 6:53), many of His disciples said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” (Jn 6:60). Instead of backing down or modifying this crucial teaching, Jesus let many of His disciples walk away from Him. (Jn 6:66). Why? Because He couldn’t compromise the truth!

A Catholic Response
As Catholics, we are blessed to have the fullness of truth and, under no circumstances, can we change the truth in order to make it more palatable. Although we should become creative and try to meet people “where they are”, the “Good News” can’t be changed. For, in doing so, we’d be hurting people rather than helping them. Although it’s a challenge, we need to educate people about Church teachings. As many of us cynics have discovered, the teachings of the Church really do make sense once they are prayerfully explored with an open mind. That’s the great thing about truth…it’s TRUE!

Isn’t This The Clergy’s Job?
As lay Catholics, what can we do to combat declining Mass attendance? Isn’t this the job of the priests and deacons? In actuality, we should all be concerned about this matter. If you think about it for a minute, it’s not easy for the clergy to reach out to those who no longer attend Mass. Furthermore, the Church teaches that evangelization is the responsibility of ALL baptized Catholics. In his apostolic letter, Porta Fidei (The Door of Faith), Pope Benedict XVI observed:

The renewal of the Church is also achieved through the witness offered by the lives of believers: by their very existence in the world, Christians are called to radiate the word of truth that the Lord Jesus has left us.

In order to share the truth with others, the first thing we should do is learn, understand AND LIVE the teachings of the Catholic Church. Then, as charitably as possible, we should share these teachings with others. Our Church is blessed to have the fullness of truth and it would be wrong to keep this treasure to ourselves. With whom should we share? Everyone around us – our family, friends, coworkers and any others who we encounter in our daily lives.

Using The Internet
Do you spend a lot of time on the Internet? Why not use it for sharing the faith? One of the great things about the Internet and social media is the ability to reach those who no longer go to Church. Here are some simple and concrete steps that we can all take to share the truth with others:

Share good Catholic articles with others via email.

Post inspirational quotes on Facebook or Twitter.

“Like” solid Catholic fan pages, groups or posts on Facebook.

Create your own Catholic website, podcast, Facebook group or Twitter account.

Whether we do it on the Internet or face to face, we must never stop proclaiming the true teaching of the Catholic Church. In the end, that truth is what is going to save souls. Sometimes people will get offended and “walk away”, but that shouldn’t deter us from delivering the “Good News” IN FULL. It happened to the prophets, it happened to the Saints and it happened to Jesus…and that’s some good company!

“No one is truly poor but except the one who lacks the truth.” (St. Ephraem the Syrian)

One Way To Be Sure You’re Following God’s Will…

 

“Do you really believe God loves you? If you do, you know that everything that happens in your life is for your good. And it isn’t always a peaceful experience.” (Mother Angelica)

How do I know what God wants me to do with my life? How can I be sure that I’m following His will?

While this is a concern for anyone who is sincerely trying to follow the Lord, the answer is simpler than you realize. Although there are decisions that must be made in the course of our lives, there is one sure way to be certain that we’re following the will of God. It is to simply accept everything that happens in your life as being God’s will.

That’s it? You bet! This method of discernment is so simple that it often gets overlooked. In addition, it’s one of the most difficult things that we can ever do. Why? Because it involves our accepting illness, poverty, sorrow, loneliness, humiliation and uncertainty as being part of God’s will… and that isn’t easy!

The Bible tells us that “all things work for good for those who love God” (Romans 8:28), but that is often forgotten when we are faced with unexpected challenges. Just for a minute, imagine how peaceful you’d be if you TRULY believed that everything that God permits to happen in your life is in your best interest. In reality, that’s exactly what the Church teaches. It is God’s will that we all end up in Heaven (1 Thes 4:3) and He sometimes allows “bad” things to happen in order to help us arrive at our eternal destination.

In his book, Uniformity With God’s Will, Saint Alphonsus Liguori advises, “Whenever anything disagreeable happens, remember it comes from God and say at once, ‘This comes from God’ and be at peace.” While this advice seems simple, just think of how many times we violate it each day! How often do we complain about flat tires, financial problems, poor health, heavy workloads, tiredness and so many other issues?

Today, why not try to follow God’s will by NOT complaining when unpleasant things happen? Instead, make it a point to thank the Lord for making His will known!

“Whatever good or evil befalls you, be confident that God will convert it all to your good.” (Saint Jane Frances de Chantal)

No Greater Love…

 



Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)

On this day, approximately 2,000 years ago, Jesus Christ suffered and died on a cross so that you and I can one day live in the eternal happiness of His kingdom. He gave everything, holding nothing back. As we look over our lives, what have we done to express our gratitude? Speaking for myself, I have to admit that the answer is “not much”. As a matter of fact, not only haven’t I done too much for the Lord, but I’ve done many things to hurt Him. I’ve repaid His selfless love with indifference, ingratitude and numerous mortal and venial sins. I’ve disobeyed His command to “love one another” (John 13:34) more times than I’d like to admit and often ignored His warning that I’ll be judged for “every careless word” that I speak (Matthew 12:36).

Although we should feel sad that our sins put Him on the cross, we shouldn’t be paralyzed by our grief. We shouldn’t just wish that He didn’t have to suffer. Instead, we should vow to make changes in our lives TODAY. The very first change that each of us should make is to ask Jesus for the grace to lead holier lives. If we rely on our own power we’ll fail miserably, but when we turn to Him, “all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).

Thank you, Jesus, for suffering so that I may have eternal life. Help me to turn away from my sinful behavior and become more like you. Amen.

Spiritual Exercises – Day 16

 

On today’s show, we focused on the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12):

When He saw the crowds, He went up the mountain, and after He had sat down, His disciples came to Him. He began to teach them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Today’s musical selection was “Litany of Humility” by Danielle Rose.

Listen to the podcast of the show here.

Moment Of Truth with Gary Zimak 1-26-12

 

Good Morning Friends!  Here’s today’s Moment of Truth with Gary Zimak, the memorial of Sts. Timothy and Titus…

Moment Of Truth with Gary Zimak 1-26-12 (mp3)

This Almost Makes Me Like The Marlins

I was born and raised in Philadelphia, PA and have been a Phillies fan for all of my life.  The Florida Marlins are a division rival which means that I don’t particularly care for them.

Despite my feelings for the Marlins, here is a really neat story about their 80 year-old manager, Jack McKeon.  It’s pretty hard not to like someone who attends daily Mass and has a devotion to St. Therese.  And come to think of it, I guess it could be worse…

He could be the manager of the Mets 🙂

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/03/sports/baseball/a-career-sustained-by-unwavering-faith.html?_r=1

 

When It Comes To Mass, Details Matter!

I had a great experience this morning.  My family and I attended Mass at St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Merchantville, NJ.  While this is not my regular parish, I do attend daily Mass there.  For some time, however, I’ve wanted to experience their Sunday Mass.  Today my family and I went and I was blown away!

What was so special about this Mass (and this parish), you might ask?  Every action, no matter how small, showed tremendous respect for Our Lord and helped me to better understand what was taking place at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  Here’s some of what I saw:

–  Six altar servers, 4 of whom knelt directly before the altar during the Eucharistic prayer.  Two of them also carried candles and stood beside the priest as he read the Gospel.

–  Bells were rung during the consecration

–  Two additional priests and a deacon assisted the main celebrant in distributing Holy Communion.

– Hymns were all Catholic and traditional.

– Ushers stood and watched people receiving Communion to ensure that nobody treats the Blessed Sacrament with disrespect.

– No, and I mean NO, improvising during the Eucharistic prayer.

– No hand holding during the Our Father (like it or not, folks, this is a Protestant practice and Catholics are not supposed to do it!)

– Real Catholic teaching in the homily!

Some of you may read this and think, “What’s the big deal?  This is the way my parish does it”.  If that’s the case consider yourself blessed because many Catholics are not that fortunate.  I’ve personally experienced many irreverent actions at Mass.  I’ve even encountered a priest who regularly ad-libs his way through the Eucharistic prayer, even modifying Our Lord’s words of institution.  Many of us who try to raise issues like this often get accused of being Pharisaical and too rigid.     

As a Catholic, don’t let anyone ever tell you that details don’t matter, especially when it comes to the celebration of the Holy Mass.  We are flawed and imperfect humans who are easily distracted and need all of the help we can get when it comes to our faith.  Attention to the details at Mass reminds us of the fact that the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ is TRULY present on that altar.  That fact often gets missed because of careless and lackadaisical actions on the part of people who should know better.  If we really believe that Jesus Christ is present at Mass and that we are being transported to and participating in His Sacrifice on Calvary, then we should act like it! 

Father Anthony Manuppella, the pastor of St. Peter’s does a fantastic job of helping his parishioners to better live their Catholic Faith.  Please visit their website and if you’re ever in the Merchantville, NJ area, make sure make a visit to this outstanding Catholic parish!