"Hallowed Be Thy Name..."

Picking up from last week's thread, we were looking at Pope Benedict XVI's catechesis on the Lord's Prayer in his book, Jesus of Nazareth. The topic for today is the second major section of the prayer: "Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name..."

Jesus' instruction to pray in this way "reminds us of the second commandment of the Decalogue [Ten Commandments]," writes Benedict: "Thou shalt not speak the name of the Lord thy God in vain." (Jesus of Nazareth, p. 142) But what does the "name of God" mean? In other words, why should we hold it with such respect - even enough that we ask him each time we pray the Our Father that His name might be kept holy? The answer is a little philosophical, perhaps, but a great thing to think about when praying the prayer day in and day out.

Our desire to see God's name made holy is rooted in the nature of what a 'name' really is. Naming something is more than just calling it a series of syllables; it is describing its very core in one word, an action that is quite mysterious, if you think about it. A name holds the dignity of its owner within itself; when we use a name, we immediately get an overwhelmingly realistic impression of what something or someone means and represents to us. The same, then, is true with God's name. When we use it to bring glory to Him, He blesses us, but when we infect people's idea of God by misusing and abusing His Holy Name, we do greater damage to ourselves and our culture than we could ever imagine. Essentially, we curse the God who created us and show openly that we do not intend to live by His statutes and love Him as He loves us.

With all that in mind, the final thing to say is that a name "establishes relationship...God establishes relationship between himself and us. He puts himself within reach of our invocation. He enters into relationship with us and enables us to be in relationship with him...He assumes the risk of relationship, of communion, with us." (Jesus of Nazareth, pp. 143-4) How amazing! In fact, God gives us the power (and it really is power!) to either tarnish His name or use it well. In the end, it is the power to convert hearts or the power to turn them into stone. What a heavy responsibility! But that is how much God loves us - enough to include us in His plan of salvation, making us integral in the salvation of others through Jesus Christ. Perhaps if we thought of this every time we said the Our Father, our experience of this basic prayer would become much deeper and more meaningful.