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Lent

Want To Make This A Great Lent? Try This Challenge…


 

Catholic Speaker and author Gary Zimak discusses the importance of growing close to Jesus during Lent.

Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18)

As we approach the halfway point of Lent, I thought it would be a good idea to pose a question and to issue a challenge. Let’s begin with the question. Are you ready? Here goes…

Are you closer to Christ today than you were on Ash Wednesday?

Tricky, isn’t it? If I asked how you were making out with giving up sweets, coffee or Facebook you probably wouldn’t even have to think about it. On the other hand, trying to decide if you’re closer to Jesus than you were a few weeks ago can be challenging. In reality, however, that’s the point of Lent. If you abstained from candy for the entire forty days and ended up no closer to the Lord than when you started, you wasted your time. While fasting is an important part of the Lenten season, it is only part of the overall goal of growing closer to Jesus.

How can we tell if we are growing closer to Jesus? I recently wrote a blog about the topic which was also shared on the Catholic Stand website and linked to by the National Catholic Register. While I would strongly encourage you to read the entire article, I want to focus on my first question, which happens to be the subject for the challenge that I’m about to issue:

Was I grateful for everything that happened to me today (good and bad)?

If you find yourself cringing, don’t panic. That is a normal reaction. On the other hand, we shouldn’t be content with answering “no” to that question. If, for the remainder of Lent, we can make some progress in this area, there’s a very good chance that this could be our best Lent ever. Learning to be grateful for each day that the Lord gives us is a great way of expressing our love for Him. Put yourself in His shoes for a minute and think about what it would feel like to give someone a great gift and hear nothing but complaints. Every day that the Lord gives us is a gift. It is a chance to know, love and serve Him. It is a chance to gain merit and eventually live with Him in Heaven. Instead of being grateful, however, we complain…

It’s too hot.
It’s too cold.
My job is boring.
I’m tired.
I wish I had more money.
My coworkers are annoying.
If only I was better looking.
Everyone treats me unfairly.
My pastor’s homilies are too long.
My pastor’s homilies are too short.

You get the point, right? Now, here’s the challenge. Beginning on Friday, March 28, I challenge you to not complain about anything from the time you wake up until the time you go to sleep. No negative words, no negative thoughts. If something unpleasant happens to you, make it a point to thank the Lord for allowing it to happen.

What do you think? Are you ready to fast from complaining for one day? I know it will be difficult and many of us will slip up, but there is much to be gained from this sacrifice. If you can’t decide whether or not to participate, here’s something that might help. On the night before He died, Jesus suffered tremendously in the garden. One of the greatest sources of His suffering was the knowledge of all the sins that would be committed by each one of us. Yes, Jesus is God and He knew every sin that you and I would ever commit and it caused Him a great deal of anguish. On the other hand, He also saw every sacrifice and act of love that we would perform until the end of time. Wouldn’t it be nice to know that we were able to ease Jesus’ suffering a bit? Every time we refrain from complaining we do just that.

If you make it through one day without complaining (or maybe complaining a little bit less than normal), the possibilities are endless. How about two, three, four or more days? How about a month, six months or several years. This simple act of self-denial could change your life and the lives of those around us.

I’m going to try it. How about you?

“Living joyful, trustful acceptance isn’t complicated. One simply offers himself to God with confidence and then accepts everything with praise and thanksgiving, seeing all as coming from God’s loving, fatherly hands.” (Fr. Michael Gaitley, Consoling The Heart of Jesus, pg. 96)

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)