I once spent a year directing a foreign study program for the University of Portland in Salzburg, Austria, and had the use of a Volkswagen station wagon that was mostly handy for hauling a week’s worth of groceries back from the supermarket.

But one weekend I took off in it to visit an alum the army had stationed in Wurzburg, Germany and found myself cruising on the autobahn with no speed limit. I hit 120 mph pressing the pedal to the floor on the downhill. It wasn’t Southern California but with a little imagination, I could pretend the VW was a MG and I was momentarily suspended in the middle of a Beach Boys lyric.

On the verge of passing an Opel clunker, I glanced in the sideview mirror and saw a car maybe 1/8 mile behind, so I turned on my blinker to pass on the left. Then I turned my shoulder to look back just to make sure and felt a whoosh. The blur whizzing by was a Maserati that must have been going 180.

Some people are Maseratis and others VWs. It’s not that one is better than the other. The Maserati wouldn’t have been very useful to me in Austria. I couldn’t have fit more than a few shopping bags into the passenger’s seat, and most weeks I barely managed to squeeze grub for 40 into the wagon.

When I was eight I wanted to be a professional baseball player, but after spending most of little league stuck in right field where the rejects do the least damage, I realized that I wasn’t destined for a big-league signing bonus. Trial and error is usually an effective means of discerning whether we should focus on soccer or the clarinet when we are young, but the pain of realizing that your picture will never appear on a Topps card is a lot easier to swallow than the gut wrench when the FedEx man delivers the writ finalizing your divorce.

A graduating senior once asked me to sit down with him to figure out what he should do after college. I was pleased when he told me that he had thought of becoming a priest. It edified me when he said he was contemplating a volunteer year in Uganda. “Anything else?” I asked. He put his head down, hemmed and hawed a bit before looking up and saying, “There’s a girl too. She’s teaching in Fairbanks.”

“Can you picture yourself growing old with her?” I asked. His face lit up like a moonbeam. I guess it was the right question. My mental image of him in a Roman collar disappeared quicker than a Snapchat photo as I responded, “Well, if I were you I would buy a one-way ticket to Alaska and a very warm fur parka, live in an igloo and survive on moose jerky if that’s what it takes but get up there and find out whether she’s the one.”

Initially, his mother wasn’t too keen on my suggestion, but a few months after graduating he flew off toward the Arctic Circle. A month later he had two job offers. After six months he was engaged. I celebrated his wedding the following summer. His two kids keep growing every year in the latest version of the family Christmas card.

The Rich Young Man is one of my favorite Gospel stories. Give him credit. He gets almost everything right. He has obeyed the commandments from his youth. He discerns the one essential question entirely on his own. He dares to approach Jesus and ask it: “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He appears to be a mere puddle jump from passing go into the kingdom.

Then Jesus, compassionately but bluntly says, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” The story brakes to a halt. How richer his life would have been had he accepted that he was not a Maserati and been content to drive a wagon for Jesus.

Fr. King is a theology instructor at the University of Portland.