“Have you understood all these things?” Jesus asked. “Yes,” they replied. He said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.” Matthew 13: 51-52.

In these days of uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, this is a fair question to ask: Have you understood all these things? For many of us, the resounding answer would be NO! My friends, where are we looking for answers? Are we listening to the scientists or the politicians? In any event, I urge us to adhere to the mandates of the scientists and those in authority. Wear facial covering, practice social distancing and wash hands often. However, my brothers and sisters in Christ, we should be concerned not only about answers to COVID-19, but should also be concerned about how we live our lives in God’s vineyard

In today’s Gospel, (Matthew 13:31-33,44-52), Jesus speaks in parables, which can relate to a wide variety of people, the rich, the poor, the young, the old, the sick and the well, the believers and non-believers. He uses every day, simple ways to get His message across.

I can recall as many of us were taught in Sunday school that a parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning, and as we matured as Christians, we realize that parables have a way of testing our actions and beliefs. All these kingdom parables are very important to understand. They each suggest that the life of faith begins with something as small as a little bit of yeast or a single grain of mustard seed. Most of all, we are God’s own pearls of great value.

Through the parables, Jesus describes what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. The parables teach us great lessons that we can apply to our own daily life, so we cannot take them lightly. Rather we should use the lessons as a guide to lead us to eternal life. Jesus used simple stories around an experience or situation familiar to those who gathered around to listen to him, stories that are familiar to us also. For example, He likens the kingdom to a mustard seed, the smallest of all but when it is grown, it is big enough for birds to nest in its branches. He speaks of treasure that is buried and covered up only to be discovered later and finding “the one pearl of great value.” Yes, we his children are the pearl of great value, we are precious in the sight of God. Jesus’ teaching was to communicate truths to those who were sincerely seeking it, not to impress his listeners, He wants us, on our journey of faith to be like the owner of a house and bring out of our storeroom new treasures as well as old (Matthew 13:52).

Among the crowds were the disciples who claimed to understand what Jesus taught and who had the responsibility to teach others by sharing whatever knowledge they had from their journey with Jesus, the former things as well as the new things they must now teach. We too must learn from the old and from the new so that we can discern the difference between what is true and the false, what is reality and what is not.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, how much do we treasure the things of God, what he has done and what he has promised to do.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you or forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6). The disciples who had just claimed to understand what Jesus taught, are now responsible to share their understanding with others. Like the disciples, are we ready and willing to share the good news of salvation with others? Have we been using some of our time to read, mark and learn about the good news delivered in the parables?

Truth be told, we are now experiencing the old and the new. Biblical promises made have come to pass, and now we wait in hope for many things to be fulfilled, hoping they will do something good for us. What we really need, is understanding. That is exactly what our Lord came to give us. In his first letter John writes, “We know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding” (1 John 5:20 ESV). When we get understanding, we will know how to speak truth. Then we will know what to say to another who asks us the meaning of the kingdom parables in comparison to this new normal that we are called to exercise, and ask God to impart knowledge and understanding to those who will teach and guide us.

Brothers and sisters, we must continue to live in hope, a hope that the work of scientists will lead them to a cure that will help to eradicate the COVID-19 virus. Let us live in hope that our leaders are inspired to lead us in the right direction. But If our earthly leaders fail us, there is one who never fails us. You see, just as the meaning of the parables gave the disciples hope, we too must live in hope, hope for a better tomorrow. Right now, the task seems overwhelming, but Jesus promised that with God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).

Dear people of God, we must learn how to cope with life and handle its problems. In spite of the challenges we face, we must continue to spread the message of faith and hope. Let us not grow weary but live with the hope that this season of uncertainty will soon pass. Amen.

— The Right Rev. Edward Ambrose Gumbs is the Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of the Virgin Islands, which encompasses the Episcopal churches on St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John and the Anglican churches on Tortola and Virgin Gorda.