Saint Laurence O’Toole – Readings

Commentary on 1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23; John 10:11-16

Both readings give a good description of Bishop Laurence. In the Gospel which is from John, Jesus speaks of himself as the Good Shepherd. The quality of the good shepherd is that he is totally dedicated to the care of his flock, even to the point of giving his life for them, if necessary. This, of course, is exactly what Jesus did for his flock, which includes every single one of us. It is in strong contrast to a man simply hired to look after the sheep. In time of danger, such a person will just give up and take care of himself.

Laurence was an outstanding shepherd. His life was totally dedicated to his people. He may not have died a martyr’s death but he certainly spent his life for them. His death at the relatively early age of 48 may indeed be an indication of the level of dedication in the service of his people, apart from the very austere life he lived.

In writing to the Christians of Corinth, Paul in the First Reading says the preaching of the Gospel is not simply something he has decided to do. It is a commission which he sees clearly coming from God. “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” It is not a matter of choice or arising from an inner urge to be generous. It is a call to serve and to serve freely, not for any recompense that might arise from it. And then he says wonderfully, that while he is free from any obligation to any person, he, in total freedom, makes himself the servant of all.

He adapts himself to the needs of each person so that with the strong he is strong and with the weak he is weak. His only concern is the wellbeing of the people and not to impose his own way on them. As he says, “I have become all things to everyone.” He has only one aim – that every person come in contact with the Word of Jesus and make it their way of life. “I do it all for the sake of the Gospel.” Again, the reading is a good description of Laurence as bishop and shepherd of his people.

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