“Hallowed be Thy name”. We hear and say this phrase on a regular basis when we pray the Lord’s Prayer. But how often do we truly think about what this means? I know for me, at least, I often recite that prayer without giving much thought into that particular line of the prayer. It wasn’t until a Catechism study that I recently began taking part in that I really stopped to reflect on this line and its meaning.
First of all, what does this mean, ‘hallowed be Thy name’? According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
“2807 The term “to hallow” is to be understood here not primarily in its causative sense (only God hallows, makes holy), but above all in an evaluative sense: to recognize as holy, to treat in a holy way. And so, in adoration, this invocation is sometimes understood as praise and thanksgiving.66 But this petition is here taught to us by Jesus as an optative: a petition, a desire, and an expectation in which God and man are involved. Beginning with this first petition to our Father, we are immersed in the innermost mystery of his Godhead and the drama of the salvation of our humanity. Asking the Father that his name be made holy draws us into his plan of loving kindness for the fullness of time, “according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ,” that we might “be holy and blameless before him in love.”67
2808 In the decisive moments of his economy God reveals his name, but he does so by accomplishing his work. This work, then, is realized for us and in us only if his name is hallowed by us and in us.”
So, to hallow the Lord’s name is, first and foremost, to live a holy life of devotion to Christ in our actions, prayers, etc. We need to make sure that Christ is being reflected in our actions. When people are around us, they should be able to tell that we lead a Christ-centered life without us necessarily needing to say anything. This being said, we should also be able to speak of Christ or our faith to others without feelings of shame or embarrassment.
Now that we are on the subject of speaking, Christ must also be reflected in us through our words, or lack-thereof. There is a reason why the 3rd Commandment is “Thou shall not take the Lord’s name in Vain”. How often to we casually throw around His name in phrases like “Oh my G–!” or “Thank G–!” when we aren’t actually thanking Him or calling on Him? Or, if you’re like me and you don’t say those phrases, how often have we heard our friends or even strangers say those types of things? How often have we, or someone else, used his name in anger, annoyance, or frustration? There are many other examples that I’m sure you are aware of, but the point is that none of these things keep the Lord and His name holy. In fact, they do quite the opposite.
Now, there are many of us who never or seldom take the Lord’s name in vain, and that is great! We aren’t don growing yet, though. We can’t just not say His name in vain and then completely disregard the other aspects involved in hallowing His name. How are our actions? The words that we think? How is our prayer life? According to the CCC:
“2814 The sanctification of his name among the nations depends inseparably on our life and our prayer:
- We ask God to hallow his name, which by its own holiness saves and makes holy all creation . . . . It is this name that gives salvation to a lost world. But we ask that this name of God should be hallowed in us through our actions. For God’s name is blessed when we live well, but is blasphemed when we live wickedly. As the Apostle says: “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” We ask then that, just as the name of God is holy, so we may obtain his holiness in our souls.82When we say “hallowed be thy name,” we ask that it should be hallowed in us, who are in him; but also in others whom God’s grace still awaits, that we may obey the precept that obliges us to pray for everyone, even our enemies. That is why we do not say expressly “hallowed be thy name ‘in us,”‘ for we ask that it be so in all men.83″
- Still not sure of ways to hallow His name? Let’s think about this: When someone says something bad about a friend or family member, we get upset, right? We show discomfort, and even stand up for them, right? Well, Christ should be higher up on our list than even family or friends. If He is the center of our lives, truly the most important, most loved, and most adored, we have an obligation to do something, say something, or show some sort of negative reaction when someone we are speaking to disrespected Him. I know this is much easier said than done, and we are humans, we are imperfect, and we are sinners. God does not expect perfection, but He also does not want us to use our imperfection or sinful nature as a crutch or an excuse when it comes to doing something moral that is difficult or uncomfortable. He wants us to try our very best, and He will know when we are giving it our best.
When we are having a hard time standing up for Christ and for His holy name, then we should pray for the strength to stand up to those who purposefully bully Christ, and for the right words to say or actions to take when somebody who honestly doesn’t even think much about it uses His name in vain. On this note, let us remember that the Holy Father has announced that this year is an Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy. One of the spiritual works of mercy is to instruct the ignorant. This is a great place to start! You might not change anyone, but it is very possible that you could at least get them to think about it a little bit more.
I’m not even saying we have to lecture those who take the Lord’s name in vain. I had a priest who said he would make the sign of the Cross or bow/genuflect every time a peer used the Lord’s name in vain. Another friend of mine finishes the person’s sentence with “loves you” or “blesses you”. Even if this does not change somebody’s heart, they will be likely to say His name in vain much less, even if it is because they are annoyed at your words and actions. That is okay, because guess what? They are saying it less, and giving thought to not saying it. If that say His name in vain less, it will most likely also become less of a habit.
As far as what action you decide to take, it does not even necessarily have to be something big or loud. In fact, it could be something completely silent. If you show genuine discomfort on your face or in your body language (arms crossed, or a frown, etc.), they will notice. Or, if you spend less time with them and the ask why, you can explain to them that when they say something offensive about God or use His name lightly and loosely, it makes you feel offended, sad, and/or uncomfortable.
To close, I will end with this powerful excerpt from the Catechism that does a great job of summarizing the importance of hallowing the name of Christ:
“2815 This petition embodies all the others. Like the six petitions that follow, it is fulfilled by the prayer of Christ. Prayer to our Father is our prayer, if it is prayed in the name of Jesus.84 In his priestly prayer, Jesus asks: “Holy Father, protect in your name those whom you have given me.”85 “
As we approach Lent, maybe something to think about doing for Lent would be to try out one or more of the ways to hallow God’s name that are listed above, or even to be creative and think up some other ways to try. Whether you are shy, outgoing, introverted, extroverted, thick-skinned, sensitive, I can guarantee there is at least one way that can work for you.