The priest feels that he is learning to be humble, learning to empathize with people of a lower station, and becoming capable of a universal love. As a young priest, he was proud and arrogant. In his eight years as an outlaw he lowers himself and realizes the former error of his ways.
When he is in jail for the first time and shares a cell with all the town's criminals, the priest reflects on this sense of connection, which is borne out of his suffering and his sense of proximity to the poor.
"When you visualized a man or woman carefully, you could always begin to feel pity — that was a quality God's image carried with it. When you saw the lines at the corners of the eyes, the shape of the mouth, how the hair grew, it was impossible to hate. Hate was just a failure of the imagination."
While the priest learns lessons of humility and learns to think of himself as one of the suffer mass, his development is put to the test when he escapes across the border. In a town where religion is practiced openly, the priest gives in to pride and drink with remarkably little resistance.
He is aware of his own weakness, yet in the final moment he chooses to re-cross the border. This is an act of will-power and sacrifice that demonstrates the priest's development. His lessons were not entirely superficial. He has learned the strength to be a martyr even if he does not feel worthy of that title.