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Lent

Think You’re Doing Well This Lent? Here’s A Challenge…


 

Catholic speaker and author Gary Zimak reveals the details of his Lenten challenge on his nightly radio show.

How is your Lent going so far? Have you grown closer to Christ? Are you sure?

On Monday, March 24, on my Following The Truth radio show, I will reveal the details of my 24 hour Lenten challenge. While it doesn’t involve fasting from food, money or social media, it will be challenging. In fact, it may be the most challenging fast you’ve ever undertaken. It will also be the most productive.

Think you’re doing well this Lent? Tune in on Monday at 8 PM Eastern and we’ll see…

I Woke Up Tired And Miserable Today. Thank You, Lord!


 

Last night we set our clocks ahead one hour. This morning I woke up tired and, to be honest, feeling a little miserable. As I sat down to eat breakfast with my family before Mass, however, something popped into my head. The fact that I was alive means that the Lord gave me another day to know, love and serve Him. Although I didn’t feel like it, I grabbed my phone, opened my Twitter app and tweeted the following:

Catholic Speaker and Radio Host Gary Zimak uses Twitter to give thanks to God

I’m still working on it, but I am gradually learning that my relationship with God shouldn’t be based on how I feel. Lent is a good time to work on focusing less on myself and more on my relationship with the Lord. Even though I’m not feeling too chipper this morning, I shouldn’t take it out on God. My message to you on this First Sunday of Lent is this – Don’t feel bad about feeling bad. Feelings are neither right nor wrong. It doesn’t matter how you feel, it matters what you say and do.

Being nice to someone who you can’t stand or thanking God for the problems in your life is a great way to express your love for Him. It gives us a chance to truly put Him first in our lives. And you know what? Sending up that prayer this morning also allowed me to have a personal encounter with the Lord, which always bears fruit. Even though I’m still tired, I am feeling the peace that comes from being close to Him. How cool is that?

God is good!

How Can I Be Sure I’m Following Jesus?


 

Catholic speaker and author Gary Zimak offers suggestions for how we can be sure that we are followers of Jesus

After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And leaving everything behind, he got up and followed him. (Luke 5:27-28)

In today’s gospel, Jesus invites Levi (also known as Matthew) to follow Him. The tax collector then left everything behind and followed the Lord. Lent is a great time to assess just how serious we are about following Jesus. While I certainly claim to be His follower, do my actions support that statement? How can I be sure? Fortunately, Jesus gives us the answer:

Then he said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Luke 9:23-24)

I guess that means that, if I want to be His follower, I should do what He did. I probably should surrender to the Father’s Will, stop complaining so much about the annoyances of daily life and begin putting the needs of others before my own.

I’ve got some work to do. How about you? Let’s pray for one another.

Have I Grown Closer To Jesus Today?


 

Catholic Speaker and Author Gary Zimak offers advice for assessing the status of your relationship with Jesus

As we journey through the forty days of Lent, it’s easy to lose our focus. Even if we remain faithful to our Lenten sacrifices, we can still lose sight of our main goal – growing closer to the Lord. While it is entirely possible that giving up sweets, coffee or beer can draw us closer to Jesus (by uniting our suffering with His or recognizing that we may be chasing after the comfort provided by worldly things), it’s also possible that we can become so obsessed with our self-denial that we may lose sight of Him entirely.

Every day, our relationship with the Lord can do one of three things. It can grow stronger, it can weaken or it can stay the same. Our goal in Lent (and really throughout our life) is to grow closer to Jesus every day. Therefore, at the end of each day we should ask ourselves the following question:

“Have I grown closer to Jesus today?”

While it sounds like a simple question, it’s sometimes a difficult one to answer honestly. Therefore, I find it helpful to look at a series of practical questions which will help to assess our relationship with the Lord.

Was I grateful for everything that happened to me today (good and bad)?
Was I kind to everyone I met?
Did I love my enemies?
Did I speak to the Lord throughout the day?
Did I listen to Him speak to me (in silence, in the Bible, through the teachings of the Church)?
Were my actions a good example to others?
If I experienced any kind of suffering did I offer it up?
Did I thank Him for giving me another day?
Did I use my talents to serve Him (by doing the best I can in performing my duties)?
Did I ask for His help in overcoming my imperfections?
Did I tell the Lord that I loved Him?

Now, if you’re like me you probably answered “no” to some of these questions. Don’t panic. That’s what Lent is all about. Tell God you’re sorry and ask for the grace to do better tomorrow. If you’re honest with yourself and keep trying, you and the Lord will grow closer and you’ll be on the road to receiving the ultimate reward…

Life with him in Heaven!

If you’d like some help during Lent I invite you to join me in the Lenten Radio Retreat that I am leading on my nightly Internet Radio Show. Every Monday thru Friday for the duration of Lent, I’ll read an excerpt from Fr. Larry Richard’s book, “Surrender: The Life Changing Power Of Doing God’s Will“, read and discuss the daily Mass readings and share a series of short (but POWERFUL) meditations entitled “Lenten Lollipops” (from the book of the same name by Fr. Francis Boylan). You can find out more HERE.

Lent Doesn’t Have To Be Painful


 

Catholic Speaker Gary Zimak explains the meaning of Lent

I used to cringe every time Lent rolled around. Actually, I should qualify that statement. Once I started trying to become a better Catholic, I used to cringe every time Lent rolled around. Before that, I just ignored it. Sure, I gave up candy when I was a child, but I stopped doing that when I “grew up”. Eventually I realized my mistake and I learned to “pick up my cross” each Lent. I would generally give up my beloved desserts and it was PAINFUL! And that pain increased as the Lenten season progressed. It wouldn’t be unusual to find me at a convenience store drooling over the pastry display, counting the days until Easter! I know it sounds silly, but it’s a realistic look at my typical Lenten practice. I suspect you may be like me and have a similar story to share. Fortunately, I have good news for you. Lent doesn’t have to be painful!

Our main objective during Lent should be growing closer to Jesus. If we keep that in mind, any suffering that we endure will be outweighed by the sweetness of a close personal relationship with Christ. While there is always some pain involved when we give up something that we enjoy, that pain can be wiped away by the joy experienced when we are close to the Lord. During Lent, the Church encourages us to turn over a new leaf and to become better Christians. We are urged to repent, fast, pray and give alms. As a result, we move away from our sinful ways and grow closer to the Lord. I know that it sounds painful, but that’s the paradox of Christianity. If we are close to Jesus and cooperate with the grace that He gives us, our pain and suffering can be transformed into peace. That’s the effect of a personal encounter with the Lord!

I invite you to join me in the Lenten Radio Retreat that I am leading on my nightly Internet Radio Show. Every Monday thru Friday for the duration of Lent, I’ll read an excerpt from Fr. Larry Richard’s book, “Surrender: The Life Changing Power Of Doing God’s Will“, read and discuss the daily Mass readings and share a series of short (but POWERFUL) meditations entitled “Lenten Lollipops” (from the book of the same name by Fr. Francis Boylan).

Make no mistake about the fact that it won’t be all fun and games. We’ll look at our sinfulness, repent and fast. More importantly, however, we’ll work on growing closer to Jesus during this Lenten season. And that, my friends, will take the sting out of the process. None of us are guaranteed to have another Lent. Let’s make this one count. Together, we can take advantage of this opportunity to grow in holiness. Why not tune in to our Lenten Radio Retreat and give it a try?

“Make this Lent as if it were your first Lent, your last Lent; as if it were to be the only Lent in your lives.” (Fr. Francis Boylan, Lenten Lollipops)

Father Larry Richards To Appear On Following The Truth On Monday, March 3!


 

Catholic Speaker and Radio Host Will Be Hosting His Annual Lenten Radio Retreat With Special Guest Father Larry Richards

On Monday, March 3rd at 8 PM Eastern, I’ll kick off my annual Following The Truth Lenten Radio Retreat with special guest, Father Larry Richards! This year, we’ll be using Father Larry’s book, “Surrender: The Life Changing Power Of Doing God’s Will” as the basis for the retreat. In addition, I’ll be reading and discussing the daily Lenten Mass Readings as well as sharing some thoughts designed to bring you and Christ closer together. Here’s a link to the radio show. Tune in Monday, March 3rd and let’s get started!

Make This Lent Your Best Ever – Learn To Surrender To God’s Will!


 

Father Larry Richards joins Catholic Speaker Gary Zimak on Following The Truth on BlogTalkRadio

Do you want Lent of 2014 to be your best ever?

I have great news for you. On Monday, March 3 at 8 PM Eastern I will kick off the annual Following The Truth Lenten Radio Retreat on my nightly radio show. This year I’ll be using “Surrender: The Life Changing Power Of Doing God’s Will” by Father Larry Richards as the basis for the retreat. To make things even better, Fr. Larry Richards will be joining me on the initial program and will discuss his book, offer some advice and give us his blessing.

During this retreat, we will work on learning to surrender to God’s will. Not only is this the secret to achieving peace in your life, but it’s the secret to getting to Heaven. If you’ve never participated in one of my Lenten retreats before, it’s very simple. All you need to do is listen to my radio show each evening. You can listen live each night at 8 PM Eastern (on BlogTalkRadio) or download the podcast from the BlogTalkRadio archives or on iTunes (click here to access my show on the Internet) You don’t even have to leave your home! Each night, I’ll read an excerpt from Fr. Larry’s book, share the daily Mass readings and offer some special reflections designed to make you think. I also recommend that you sign up for my e-newsletter (in the box to the right) to ensure that you receive any updates as we go through Lent. Here are some comments from previous Following The Truth Lenten Radio Retreat participants:

“I started listening to Following the truth during the Lenten retreat. It was wonderful!!!! I have to say it was my best Lent ever!!!!”

“I want to let you know this has been a fruitful Lent, due in no small part to your efforts in bringing us the Following The Truth Lenten Radio Retreat. It has been a major part of my Lenten observance and has helped me to grow spiritually in unexpected ways.”

“Your Lenten Retreat was responsible for the most significant Lent I ever experienced. I am 59. I learned that Lent was more than sacrifices or extra prayers. Lent actually involved changing one’s life to be more in unison with Jesus’ life.”

If you’re not familiar with “Surrender! The Life-Changing Power Of Doing God’s Will” or with Father Larry Richards, I recommend that you watch the following video. EWTN’s Doug Keck will interview Fr. Larry and discuss the book in detail.

Although it’s not mandatory, it will be helpful if you have a copy of the book for the retreat. You can order it at the following link:

Lent is a special time set aside by the Church to help us grow closer to Christ. We have no idea if this Lent will be our last. Don’t pass up the chance to make it your best Lent ever. Join me as we walk together and learn to surrender our will to the Lord. If you have any questions, feel free to email me. Otherwise, get ready. This is going to be a powerful experience!

Get Ready For The Following The Truth Lenten Radio Retreat!


 

“I started listening to Following the truth during the Lenten retreat. It was wonderful!!!! I have to say it was my best Lent ever!!!!”

“I want to let you know this has been a fruitful Lent, due in no small part to your efforts in bringing us the Following The Truth Lenten Radio Retreat. It has been a major part of my Lenten observance and has helped me to grow spiritually in unexpected ways.”

“Your Lenten Retreat was responsible for the most significant Lent I ever experienced. I am 59. I learned that Lent was more than sacrifices or extra prayers. Lent actually involved changing one’s life to be more in unison with Jesus’ life.”

The comments above are from individuals who participated in previous Following The Truth Lenten Radio Retreats. What do you think? Are you ready to make Lent of 2014 your best one ever? If your answer is “YES!”, I have some great news for you.

Beginning on Monday, March 3 on my nightly Following The Truth radio show, I’ll be using “Surrender: The Life Changing Power Of Doing God’s Will” by Father Larry Richards as the basis for the annual Following The Truth Lenten Radio Retreat. If you’re not familiar with the book or with Fr. Larry, be sure the watch the following video. EWTN’s Doug Keck will interview Fr. Larry and discuss the book in detail.

Although it’s not mandatory, it will be helpful if you have a copy of the book for the retreat. You can order it at the following link:

Lent is a special time set aside by the Church to help us grow closer to Christ. We have no idea if this Lent will be our last. Don’t pass up the chance to make it your best Lent ever. We’ll walk together, assisted by Fr. Larry’s powerful book. Best of all, you won’t even have to leave your home. Get ready…this is going to be powerful.

Stay tuned for more details…

Taking The Passion Personally


 

As we enter into Holy Week, the Church invites us to enter into the experience of Our Lord’s Passion. On Palm Sunday, we’ll listen to the narrative that will detail the events leading up to His agonizing death on Calvary. When we cry out, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” at Mass, we’ll cringe and silently wish that we’d been given another line to proclaim. We’ll hear about how Judas and Peter betrayed the Lord. We’ll have angry thoughts directed toward these “weak” men and wonder just how they could treat Jesus in this way. Once again, Pontius Pilate will get to show us his “Personally, I find nothing against this man, but you can do whatever you want” routine. Finally, the gospel will close with Christ being laid in the tomb. There’s a good chance that we’ll leave Mass with a bad taste in our mouth….at least for a while.

If I’m not careful, however, there’s a good chance that these feelings of sadness can pass before Good Friday rolls around. Why? Possibly because I spent too much time thinking about all of those people who turned against Jesus and murdered Him on the cross. Maybe because I focused on the fact that Pilate was a wimp. Another possibility is that I became distracted with the idea that Christ’s agonizing death was necessary in order to redeem all of mankind. Wait a minute! What could possibly be wrong with any of these things?

While it’s a good idea for me to remember that people conspired against Jesus and that His suffering was necessary in order to bring about the redemption of mankind, I shouldn’t stop there. Why? Because doing that could easily fool me into thinking that the Passion and death of Jesus is all about other people. It’s not! It’s about ME and it’s about YOU. We need to take the Passion of Christ PERSONALLY!

When I’m forced to cry out “Crucify Him” on Palm Sunday, I don’t like it. In reality, however, the Church got the casting right. It’s due to my sins that Our Lord had to suffer and die on the cross. Furthermore, every time I commit another sin I drive the nails more deeply into His bloody hands. And why should I dwell on Judas and Peter’s betrayal when I’ve committed the same offense many times? Pontius Pilate? Sure, he was a coward, but so am I at times. And any talk of redemption should always call to mind the fact that what took place on Calvary 2,000 years ago resulted in the gates of Heaven being opened for Gary Zimak. Provided that I’m willing to cooperate with His grace, our Lord’s great sacrifice could one day result in MY salvation!

As I relive the Lord’s suffering over the course of the next few days, I should take it personally…VERY personally! I was the cause of that suffering and, in spite of that, He loved me so much that He gave me a gift beyond all gifts. All He asks is that I vow to make some changes…to repent of my sins, follow Him and obey His commandments. I hope and pray that you, like me, will come to the same conclusion and take Our Lord’s Passion personally. As a result, we’ll own up to our responsibility for His death and be willing to do whatever is necessary to one day receive the gift of eternal life. Although it might be a bumpy road while we’re here on earth, the end result will be worth it!

“It is you who have crucified Him and crucify Him still, when you delight in your vices and sins.” (St. Francis of Assisi)

Making The Most Of Holy Week


 

As Lent draws to a close, it’s quite possible that full scale panic may begin to set in as you realize that you haven’t done all that much to take advantage of the season. If so, my advice to you is simple…

DON’T PANIC…IT’S NOT TOO LATE!

If you’re reading this, I’m fairly certain that you’re still alive (if not, I’d like to hear from you!) which means that you still have time to make some spiritual progress before Lent is over. The fact that you realize you haven’t done as much as you could have is a BIG step and is one that many people never seem to make. So let me be the first to congratulate you for having the desire to become a better person.

Two of the big themes during the Lenten season are awareness of our sinfulness and repentance. Naturally, we need to be aware of our imperfections before we can work on them. Take a minute and think about one or more ways in which you fall short of God’s plan for your life. Let me help you out with a few ideas…

Impatience
Anger
Excessive Worrying
Lack Of Charity
Over Sensitivity To Criticism

If you’d like to read more about these bad habits, you can do so here. Although this list is not all encompassing, every one of these bad habits will keep you from getting closer to Christ. Do you sometimes fall victim to one or more of these bad habits? Me too! Now what can we do about it? The first thing is to thank God for revealing this knowledge to us. Many people go through life without ever becoming aware of these issues. Secondly, I’d like to call attention to the fact that your Lenten journey just produced some fruit. Becoming aware of our own sinfulness is a BIG step to growing in holiness!

In a few days we’ll enter into Holy Week. During this Sunday’s Mass, we’ll hear the Passion of Our Lord proclaimed during the Gospel Reading (Luke 22:14-23,56). We’ll hear the details of Jesus’ last supper with the Apostles and witness the institution of the Holy Eucharist. The peace of that moment will be shattered by an argument as to which of them should be regarded as the greatest. We’ll listen with sadness as Jesus is not only betrayed by Judas, but by Peter. We’ll get to participate (reluctantly) by joining in with the crowd who wanted to put Jesus to death by proclaiming “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”. In commemoration of His death, we’ll kneel and acknowledge the supreme sacrifice made by the Lord on our behalf. Jesus’ lifeless body will be laid in the tomb and the story will end…for now.

Thankfully, the story will have a happy ending. The Lord will rise from the dead 3 days after that and complete the work of our redemption. In a little over a week, we’ll celebrate that joyous occasion. In the meantime, we’re asked to reflect on our own sinful behavior and resolve to make some changes. We’re also called to pick up our crosses and travel this final journey with the Lord.

As we commemorate the final week of Jesus’ life on earth, let’s make a serious attempt to rid ourselves of our bad habits and become more like Him. I’d also encourage you to participate in the activities of the Paschal Triduum, which begins on Holy Thursday and concludes on Easter Sunday. You’ll have the opportunity to participate in the Mass of the Last Supper on Holy Thursday, to remember the death of Our Lord on Good Friday and to celebrate His glorious resurrection on Easter Sunday. Whether you’ve done a little or whether you’ve done a lot during Lent really doesn’t matter at this point, as we can’t change the past. What matters is that we look ahead to this holiest of weeks and try to improve as we travel the journey along with Christ.

Here’s wishing you all a blessed Holy Week and a joyful Easter!

We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His. (Romans 6:4-5)