This article will focus on the first of the Eight Beatitudes: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven
is theirs.

By Debbie Shelley

The Catholic Commentator

Whether one has millions or only a few dollars to spend, they can invest their future in the kingdom of heaven by living the first of the Eight Beatitudes: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heavens is theirs, said Father Howard Adkins, pastor of Mater Dolorosa Church in Independence.

“Every time I read that (first beatitude) I think of individuals, who are economically rich or poor, who use their free will to accept whatever God sends their way. Whether it be something easy or hard, something they know about or they may not know about, it’s the fact that they use their free will to do whatever God says is necessary,” said Father Adkins.

He said the Catechism of the Catholic Church has a good breakdown of the beatitudes.

“We tend to forget that book, but it is important,” smiled Father Adkins.

The catechism states: “The beatitudes are at the heart of Jesus’ preaching. They take up the promises made to the chosen people since Abraham. The beatitudes fulfill the promises by ordering them no longer merely to the possession of a territory, but to the kingdom of heaven.”

It also states that the beatitudes respond to the natural desire for happiness.

Father Adkins often refers to the beatitudes in his homilies. He noted that they are something we must “do,” along with the Ten Commandments and two commandments of love: love God with all you heart, soul and mind and your neighbor as yourself.

“They (beatitudes and commandments) are like a roadmap, a ‘how to’ book of instruction,” said Father Adkins.

He saw fellow students at LSU live out the beatitudes when he studied there.

“There were people from good families who would help people at the Student Union Center,” said Father Adkins. “That’s the first time I noticed that you don’t have to be rich economically to serve others.

“Even in the Marine Corps (which Father Adkins served in), there were people who would do what’s necessary to help people, and not just in Marine Corps training. Marine Corps life can be difficult.”

Father Adkins said he would see sergeants spend whatever time is necessary helping younger Marines.

One of the biggest role models for Father Adkins in living out the beatitudes was his father, who worked for the CIA.

“He would tell us things he was doing that would make us pull our covers over our head,” said Father Adkins. “He would be gone six to eight months at a time. We knew he was alive, but there was no contact. But he was doing whatever was necessary to help. He did his work quietly, and he did it very well.”

He said that his father was well regarded, and after he passed away from health issues, once a year his mother would receive visitors from the CIA who asked one question: “Do you need anything?”

The parishioners at Mater Dolorosa and its mission chapel, St. Dominic in Husser, have also shown Father Adkins that they abide by the spirit of the first beatitude.

“I have seen people I know that were completely giving of themselves. Not only in donations, but giving of their time and talent. If they couldn’t do it themselves, they would certainly find someone who could do it,” said Father Adkins.

The beatitudes can be challenging for people who want to know “what it takes” and “what I must do to get into the kingdom of heaven.” And because no one can say with certainty where their lives are headed in a physical sense, they can be secure about their eternal destination by being poor in spirit and following the rest of the beatitudes, according to Father Adkins.

“We don’t know what will happen in the future. I think Jesus’ words (in the beatitudes) are ‘This is what I want.’ I think we can go back to the beatitudes and see that they put us on the right path to the heavenly kingdom,” said Father Adkins.

Next: Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.