I have found that the most fitting way for me to do an examination of conscience is to look at or picture in my mind a crucifix.
Except this isn't about my regular way of looking at things. For example, it wasn't like the time I thought our shovel was stolen from our yard even though I'd walked passed it about six times every day for three months. It no doubt entered my field of vision all those times, but I didn't really pay it any heed or care that it was there. It wasn't until I realized I needed it that I noticed it wasn't in the places I was looking.
This looking at Jesus pierced is an intense kind of looking that isn't as much about what I see with my physical eye or my mind's eye as about what I feel and experience. And decide.
I look, and first I am gripped by the reality of Jesus' physical anguish and the incredible shame he endured. It draws me in by its horror. But as I look, I realize it isn't just a gruesome display. Something begins to look very familiar. Something starts to remind me of the pain and darkness of my own soul in sin.
But then I look again at that face. Wait. That is not familiar. That is definitely not me. That is the sinless one, and He has my pain and my darkness. Then I realize he is there for one reason only: his choice to obey the Father's will. The God of all hope has a plan, and Jesus is there to fulfill it. That's when it washes over me: this incredible love, this incredible choice of self-giving, this incredible sacrifice which is for me. My circumstances, my wounds, my sins. I look, and His gaze meets me and penetrates right through me with love. The pierced heart of Jesus reveals the secret of God's entire plan: He is Love, and He gives everything. I exist to belong to this Love. It's all Him.
Inebriated, intoxicated with this Love that looks on me in my misery, I still look at the crucifix. Jesus calls me to Himself, to take His life into me, to walk in His way, to be an outpost of His life on this earth. This is where my sin gives in to the flame of His love. My whole life gives into the flame of His love. Everything goes in. Some things may get burned up. I may panic for a moment or for a long time, but sooner or later I know a purity that makes me calm and grateful. Some things may enter the flame to be transformed, and come back to me looking new. I don't have to know in advance what will happen, because the flame of Love is utterly trustworthy. I see that in Jesus on the cross as well, because I know He is risen from death, and in Him, so shall I.
And so every day I go back to behold the one who is pierced for me.
The fire of His love is reality.