The ‘Our Father’: “Hallowed be Thy Name”
Ever cringe when you hear God’s name used by others in a non-prayerful way? Ever do a double-take when you realize that speaking His name like this has become an inadvertent bad habit in your own life? You might not mean any disrespect to God whatsoever by it (the same is likely for others too!); it’s something that has become thoroughly entangled in Irish culture over the years.
The first petition, or request, of the “Our Father” – ‘Hallowed be thy name’ speaks very much into this. What does it mean for God’s name to be ‘hallowed’ or made holy? It’s not that WE make His name holy, for the power of making things holy belongs exclusively to God; it’s that we RECOGNISE the holiness of His name, and treat it accordingly, so that when we speak it, we do so attentively, prayerfully, reverently (CCC #2807).
In doing so, we also acknowledge the great generosity God has shown to us in revealing His name in the first place. It was part of His saving work, something He CHOSE to do out of love for us. Since the fall of Adam and Eve, when humanity’s relationship with Him was ruptured and damaged – and consequently our likeness to Him was lost – He revealed His name first in the Old Testament, then definitively in Jesus, ultimately to restore God’s likeness within us, to heal our wounded human nature (CCC #2809). In revealing His name, He also communicates a key fact: “No longer do I call you servants,” Jesus said, “for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you” (Mt 15:15). It can be incredibly easy for us to lose sight of the magnitude of this proposal!
The Catechism also makes the point that God’s work can only be realized in us ‘if his name is hallowed by us and in us’ (CCC #2808). His work was begun in us at our Baptism; now we want to cooperate totally with His grace, so that by becoming holy – and persevering ‘in what we have begun to be’ – His name may be truly hallowed by the witness of our life (CCC #2813).
For we hallow and bless God’s name when we live well. Yet, take note: living well is not getting to travel the world, attaining multiple likes on social media, having hordes of friends, or achieving bucketloads. It is to live a grace-filled, prayerful, and sacramental life, which clearly manifests the fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control (Ga 5:22).
Make it the constant desire of your heart to remain ever faithful to the incredible graces received at your baptism: this way, God’s name will be truly hallowed not only by your lips, but by your entire life.
Our Father, who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name!