What Does It Cost to Be Free? My Experience of Forgiveness

During a Holy Land pilgrimage, I saw a beautiful bush full of soft leaves, red berries and tiny white flowers. Our guide called it Spina Christi. She explains that when dried, the supple branches become sharp thorns. It is this plant which was weaved into the Crown of Thorns and pressed into the head of our Lord Jesus Christ, causing his blood to flow.

In contemplating why God would create this plant knowing its ultimate purpose in his Passion, I realized it is because he desires for his Precious Blood to be poured out for our salvation. He says at the Last Supper, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you” (Luke 22:20).

It is important to know that Jesus was totally in charge of all that was happening to him. In the Gospel of John (10:17-18) we read, “I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again.”

In God’s Justice, he deemed what is the cost for our salvation. God fulfilled his justice in the Passion and Death of his own son, Jesus Christ. God paid the price himself, “By his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24).

Spend time contemplating the Passion, and our only adequate response is gratitude. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “The human heart is converted by looking upon him whom our sins have pierced” (no. 1432).

To be set free costs you nothing… to remain free, costs your all.

I encountered Jesus a year following my tubal ligation. I knew when I said yes to this sterilization procedure that it was in opposition to Church teaching, but I was never taught why… nor did I seek to find out.

A merciful encounter with our Lord returned me to the Catholic faith. It was a slow process receiving the grace of forgiveness, as I blamed everyone for my sin but myself. I even blamed God for letting me fall. In the gentle care of the Holy Spirit, I eventually accepted responsibility. In confessing through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, I found consolation. However, I harbored a resentment towards the priests who had not properly catechized me. The fault of my sin is mine, but I do not carry this burden alone.

During the pilgrimage, we visited the Sacred Pit into which Jesus was thrown on the night of his arrest. It is carved from rock and is deep at the bottom of a hole that extends from where Jesus was questioned and beaten before the high priest, Caiaphas (Matthew 26:57).

From inside the Sacred Pit, you can hear voices above. I imagine Jesus listening to his high priest (John 11:50-51) condemn Him. I think about His New Covenant priests, the Apostles, who at that time are fleeing, denying and betraying Him. In my hands is the Crown of Thorns. This is a grace of wonder given through the pilgrimage experience. I understand in it that God is acknowledging the injustice of His priests done to me; an injustice He shares.

In that moment of wonder, Jesus looks at me. He wills me to place the Crown of Thorns on his head so he can shed his blood; the price for our salvation which includes those who have trespassed against me.

This is a costly moment. It requires my all.

His gaze brings tears of sorrow, joy and a profound understanding. I know that I cannot stop Jesus from shedding his blood for sinners, but I can stop being the source of his suffering through my failure to forgive. In gratitude to our merciful our God, I pray, “I will to forgive them all, Lord.”  Note this is not a feeling… it is a free-will choice and has required of me multiple offerings.

To my unexpected delight, I soon discover a transformation which can best be described as freedom. This freedom has a divine power that has brought me continual healing, a growing compassion for others, a constant peace, and a closer relationship with God. It is this freedom that Saint Pope John Paul II writes in his encyclical, Dives In Misericordia (Rich in Mercy),

“Forgiveness demonstrates the presence in the world of the love which is more powerful that sin. Forgiveness is also the fundamental condition for reconciliation, not only in the relationship of God with man, but also in relationships between people.”

It is the same as our Lord promised on the Mount of Beatitudes; “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy” (Matthew 5:7).


Nan Balfour is a grateful Catholic whose greatest desire is to make our Lord Jesus more loved. She seeks to accomplish this through her vocation to womanhood, marriage, motherhood and as a writer, speaker and events coordinator for Pilgrim Center of Hope

Answering Christ’s call, Pilgrim Center of Hope guides people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life. See what’s happening & let us journey with you! Visit PilgrimCenterOfHope.org.