His heraldic motto from Argentina reads, "Miserando atque Eligendo" which refers to the calling of the sinful publican, St. Matthew, on whom Jesus looked with mercy and still chose him to come and follow.
At the beginning of Lent, he made an impassioned plea to the clergy and religious of Argentina, “The Kingdom of God may need our hearts torn by the desire for conversion and for the love, the breaking forth of grace and the effective gesture to ease the pain of our brothers and sister who walk together with us.”
His message is poignant against indifference to sin and the social evils caused by the moral decadence of our society. Against a culture that has grown cold to the most vulnerable, we must allow the plight of our brothers and sisters to pierce us to the heart. We cannot grow close to Christ and remain cold to the corruption and social alienation in has caused in society. This wound of sin is too deep to be addressed by merely external actions and gestures. Our hearts must be torn by the fact that we are not effectively protecting and loving the most vulnerable in our society. So that the wound of sin in us can be healed, we must to allow the love of God to stir us and to wake us up out of our spiritual slumber. His message was a reflection on Joel 2:13, “Rend your hearts and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God who is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in mercy.”
What a refreshing perspective!
Read more: http://rcspiritualdirection.com/blog/2013/03/13/pope-francis-i-and-the-pathway-to-easter#ixzz2NSwP5SXe
And the million-dollar quote from 2001 can be read in full context here at Feast of Eden:
I dare to say that the privileged locus of the encounter is the caress of the mercy of Jesus Christ on my sin. …
Jesus is encountered, just as 2,000 years ago, in a human presence, the Church, the company of those whom He assimilates to Himself, His Body, the sign and sacrament of His Presence. …
It is a question of starting to say ["Yes"] to Christ, and saying it often. It is impossible to desire it without asking for it. And if someone starts to ask for it, then he begins to change. Besides, if someone asks for it, it is because in the depths of his being he feels attracted, called, looked at, awaited. This is the experience of Augustine: there from the depths of my being, something attracts me toward Someone who looked for me first, is waiting for me first, is the almond flower of the prophets, the first to bloom in spring. It is the quality which God possesses and which I take the liberty of defining by using a Buenos Aires word: God, in this case Jesus Christ, always primerea, goes ahead of us. When we arrive, He is already there waiting.
He who encounters Jesus Christ feels the impulse to witness Him or to give witness of what he has encountered, and this is the Christian calling. To go and give witness. You can’t convince anybody. The encounter occurs. You can prove that God exists, but you will never be able, using the force of persuasion, to make anyone encounter God. This is pure grace. Pure grace. In history, from its very beginning until today, grace always primerea, grace always comes first, then comes all the rest.