I am a priest, not an economist, so I can’t comment on bull and bear markets, mortgage rates or international finance, but I still have the solution to our economic woes. It bumps back to G.K.Chesterton’s famous letter to The Times in reply to the question, “What’s wrong with the world.” He wrote, “Dear Sir, I am. Yours sincerely, G.K.Chesterton.”

The economic disaster we are now facing is the fault of individuals–not governments. Put very simply, individual people are lazy, greedy, thieves. This applies to politicians, bankers, stock brokers, financiers, CEOs of multi national companies and it also applies the underclass–the homeless, the indigent and the destitute–and everyone in between.

The default setting in our modern, American lifestyle is one of unquestioned consumeristic materialism. Along with this goes an unquestioned level of aggression, ambition and greed. Everyone gasps at Gordon Gecko’s famous line, “Greed is good.” Everyone gasps, and then goes on and lives by the Gospel according to Gecko. We “go for gold” and grasp at every trinket and goody we can possibly grab unto ourselves. It’s disgusting.

The religious people are the ones who smell the worst in all this. We say we love God more than money, but we sure do hang on to those dollars for dear life!

The answer is there in the gospel for Mass today. “Oh you Pharisees!Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish, inside you are filled with plunder and evil. You fools!
Did not the maker of the outside also make the inside? But as to what is within, give alms,
and behold, everything will be clean for you.”

This hit me right between the eyes. I really don’t think I had seen this gospel passage before. Jesus says very clearly, “If you want to avoid hypocrisy. If you want to avoid be a holier than thou religious person. Give alms.”

This is the solution to all the economic woes of the world: Generosity. What if we were to live generously instead of graspingly? What if all of us were to live with open hands not fists? What if were all to care for others and freely give as we have freely received? The greed of fat cats would disappear. The greed of the dependent classes would evaporate. Debts would be paid, people would live simply. Protests would be un-necessary. Violence would diminish. Wars would end.

Thank God that we have the example of so many generous people who light the way. While I inveigh against the greed and lack of concern for the poor, I also see all around me ordinary people who really are generous, and who really do live with open hearts. They’re my favorite people.

For they have learned the secrets of living and they are truly blessed.