I'm sure that we have all had the experience of hurting someone. Perhaps it was a person we love deeply like a spouse or a person with whom we just have a relationship of familiarity-there are really as many ways to do it as there are relationships in our lives. When we hurt people, we always think that an apology should be enough to put it behind us. When we are the offended party, a sincere apology goes a long way toward repairing our relationship with the one that hurt us, but if the damage that was done is significant, it is only the beginning of a process of reconciliation. We forgive the offense, but things just can't go back to exactly the way that they were before. Some gesture beyond the apology is necessary. It could start with a handshake or an embrace, depending on the relationship. Usually, this gesture is followed by a modification in behavior toward the offended that works to repair the damage done. The offending party gives the one that they hurt some kind of special treatment indefinitely or for a period of time. These actions work to heal the relationship. In our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we run into one of the greatest of all reconciliations in human history. Paul, who was one of the most zealous persecutors of Christ's Body, the Catholic Church, meets Jesus on the road to Damascus. And when he meet Our Lord on the road, Paul realized that he had met none other than the living God, the One whom he thought that he was serving so well when he persecuted the Church. This encounter began a process of repentance and conversation that lasted the duration of Paul's life. In his baptism, Paul confessed his sins and gained complete forgiveness. The process reconciliation wasn't over, though. Jesus had yet to show him what had to suffer for the sake of His name during the course of his ministry. Commenting on this passage, the 20th century Swiss mystic Adrienne von Speyr observed that in a real sense Paul was doing penance for his pre-baptismal sins against the Church in the numerous sufferings he endured throughout his priestly ministry as an Apostle. Paul was chased out of city after city, left for dead on several occasions after being roughed up by adversaries, imprisoned a couple times and finally beheaded by the Roman Emperor Nero around 68 A.D. When Paul died he wasn't just reconciled to Christ, he died filled with Christ's love: He loved Jesus from the depths of his being and he knew that he was loved in return. Thus he wrote in Galatians, "I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me, who loved me and gave himself up for me." How did Paul achieve this intimacy? In addition to confessing, Paul spent the rest of his life working to repair the hurt he had to the Church. He went from being a murderer of Christians to being a priest, Apostle and martyr. He recognized that having a good relationship with God goes far beyond just asking forgiveness for one's sins, but consists in trying to repair the harm that has been done and seeking to be totally detached from anything that is contrary to God will. Over time, this second step in the Christian life that comes after confession of sin has been institutionalized in the Church. For example, we always receive a penance to complete in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. After being forgiven, we want to do something more than the bare minimum. We want to show God how much we love Him and eliminate all traces of the sin from our lives. Another example of the way the Church has institutionalized this second step in through what is called an indulgence. In understanding indulgences, we'd do well to leave technical definitions to theologians. For our purposes, we can say an indulgence is like that something extra nice that we try to do for someone that we've hurt, not because we haven't been forgiven yet, but because we want more than forgiveness, we want complete reconciliation. When the Church attaches an Full or Plenary Indulgence to pious acts like penance, prayer or almsgiving, she is giving us a guarantee that if we complete these acts with full detachment from even the smallest venial sin we, or the person for whom we apply the indulgence, will certainly receive complete reconciliation with God: If we die after receiving a Plenary Indulgence and before committing a sin, we go straight to heaven. If we apply it for the soul of a deceased relative or friend in purgatory, their purifying suffering will be over. There are many ways to receive an indulgence. In fact, the Church publishes a Handbook of Indulgences that makes clear all the ways they can be gained. On this feast of Saint Paul, we have an opportunity to gain an Indulgence if we are detached from all sin in our lives, make a sacramental confession, receive communion and pray the prayers stipulated by Pope Benedict for this special Pauline Indulgence, which we will do in just a few moments. Reconciliation with God involves more than just saying we are sorry and trying not to sin again. Like all relationships, it also includes specific actions that seek to repair the harm done. How blessed we are as Catholics to be able to experience this reconciliation more fully through indulgences.