The faith of Dismas


“In the darkness, confusion, and pain, he worshipped.”


It is easy to love God when life is comfortable. Praise comes effortlessly when blessings are easy to count. When we see God’s goodness manifest itself in our lives through answered prayers, unforeseen profits, and happy events, it’s easy to declare him King.

But we are called to be Dismas, too.

We don’t know precisely why Dismas hung on a cross next to Jesus. Luke tells us that he was a criminal, and Dismas recognizes he deserves his punishment: “the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes” (Lk 23: 41). But it is in the midst of this horrific death and suffering that he praises Our Lord. He cries out in faith to the bloody, weak man nailed to the Cross next to him.

Are we Dismas? It’s easy to follow Christ when the benefits are obvious. I can call God “good” when the day is sunny and I’m not suffering. But what about when I’m carrying a cross? What about when I am nailed to a cross?

St. Gregory Nazianzen reflects, “Worship him who was hung on the cross because of you, even if you are hanging there yourself.”  

Turn to the Lord today, on this day we call good. Perhaps you wonder why you have this particular cross to carry. Maybe it is a cross you deserve, or perhaps it seems unjust. In the pain, it is tempting to complain, or worse, to follow the example of the other thief, the one who questions Jesus’ power. In our suffering, it is tempting to question the goodness of God. Does God love me? Is he all-powerful? If he could cure the leper and raise the dead, why can’t he take away my cross?

Be like Dismas. It must have been very difficult to believe the dying man hanging next to him was a king. But in the darkness, confusion, and pain, he worshipped. Dismas believed in the goodness of God, despite his suffering. He did not ask to be spared of the cross; he simply asked the king to remember him.

Lord, on this day we call good, we turn to you. We worship you. In our suffering, in our pain, in our confusion, even as we hang on a cross, we praise you as King.


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About the Author

Joannie Watson

Joan Watson was born and raised in Lafayette, Indiana, but college and graduate school took her to Virginia, Ohio, and Rome. After graduating from Christendom College with a B.A. in History and Franciscan University with a M.A. in Theology, she moved to Nashville, Tennessee to be part of the explosion of Catholic culture in the middle of the Bible Belt.

She has been blessed to work for Dr. Scott Hahn at the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology and the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia at Aquinas College. She is presently the Director of Adult Formation for the Diocese of Nashville. She also serves as the Associate Editor of Integrated Catholic Life.

When she’s not testing the culinary exploits of new restaurants or catching up on the latest BBC miniseries, she’s FaceTiming with her eight nephews and nieces and enjoying her role as coolest aunt. She likes gelato, bourbon, and the color orange.

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