“May your name be held holy.”

Matthew 6:9; Luke 11:2

Wednesday, 16 September 2020

Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:1-4

We noted yesterday the importance of names and naming in the ancient world, including that many believed to know someone’s name meant having power over them – or simply that a name reduced a person to a category or set of limited characteristics.

Here in the Lord’s Prayer we are focusing on the holiness of God’s name. When we name someone in particular, we often have mental associations with them, with who they are and what they’re like. In our minds it’s a kind of shorthand for a person. Often a name, even a fictional name, has associations the hearer – assuming they know the reference – fills in for themselves. If I call someone Hitler, most hearers will know how I feel about the person.

So here we are reminded what we are to associate when we hear God being named: holy. We need then, of course, to understand what we mean when we say that God is holy. Not holy in the sense of being pious. God has no need of being pious. (In fact, I think God has a sense of humour – perhaps I’ll explain why another time).

God’s holiness is perhaps closer in modern terms to ‘wholeness’. Even ‘holistic’. God is all in all, complete, not needing to ‘improve’ as we do. It suggests to me the fact that God is in everything and everything is in God. 

Perhaps too, God’s holiness is expressed best in the language of mystery. God is Mystery, enigma. Although we can, do, and I would argue should strive to understand God better, all our human striving takes us only so far – and then we hit the spiritual brick wall of God’s utter mystery.

Our task, should we choose to accept it (and yes it does feel a bit like mission impossible at times!), is to see this utter mystery and awe-inspiring completeness and acknowledge it, not as some kind of divine perversity but as an invitation to relationship. It is only, after all, as any relationship deepens that we genuinely get to better understand those whom we love.

Whole and Mysterious One,

May we be inspired to go ever deeper in prayer, by which we strive unceasingly to a more profound knowledge of who you are, and reveal to us as we grow in your love more and more, the meaning of your Name.


Fr Anthony Egan SJ

Fr Anthony Egan SJ (born Cape Town 1966; entered the Jesuits 1990; ordained 2002) has taught, full-time or part-time, at St Augustine College of South Africa, St John Vianney Seminary, Fordham University (on sabbatical) and the University of the Witwatersrand. The author/co-author of a number of books, book chapters, academic and popular articles, he is a correspondent for America magazine, a contributor to Worldwide and writes for spotlight.africa. He is also a commentator on local and international radio and television. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Helen Suzman Foundation. Extramural interests include Science Fiction, Theatre, Art and creative writing, including poetry.

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