All of this is deeply heretical but it's hard to remove these sorts of obstacles because I tend to equate presence with the miraculous, rather than to see the Presence as the miraculous.
Not long ago I was trying to imagine what Jesus was saying to the sinners and tax collectors he ate dinner with. And it suddenly dawned on me that it was less what he said than the very fact that he was there. That spoke volumes. The poor sinners of Christ's time were used to the Pharisees wanting nothing to do with them, and so the fact that here a holy man, a rabbi, would eat with them made them feel like a million bucks. Made them feel loved. And it's just as amazing and miraculous when he comes to us today in the form of the Eucharist.
As a child I had not a thought for the thieves and their pain. They must’ve done something horrible, I thought, to deserve such a death. Something far more than just stealing a hubcap, or the first century’s equivalent to it. I would never be in that situation, I subliminally thought, and so I didn’t identify with the thief. I just thought that when Jesus said, “Today you will be with me in Paradise” that that was quite generous.
Now I look at the thief differently. I see how justice is often applied unjustly and have little trust in human law. I also have much more respect for the pain and agony of crucifixion and consider no one deserving of that; I find such suffering to make the victim inherently worthy of sympathy. (For good or ill, I am a creature of this age when it comes to pain.) I'm also much more impressed with what the thief said to Christ. As a veteran of a million COPS episodes, it's amazing - a miracle? - to see admission of guilt.