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“I wish I had your gift,” the startled Australian says, astounded.
It is halfway through his podcast discussion with Benedictine theologian Dr. Andrew Swafford (watch above or here), and it is easy to see why Matt Fradd is impressed.
Swafford, an Associate Professor at Benedictine College, a Great Adventure Bible editor, and author and host of teaching series on Hebrews and Romans for Ascension Press, doesn’t just answer the questions put to him by popular speaker and apologist Matt Fradd. He gives a master’s class in Scriptural studies.
Swafford answers the basic questions by going deep into both the Old and New Testaments — “What is a priest?” What does ‘a priest in the order of Melchizedek’ mean? Didn’t Jesus abolish the priesthood? Wasn’t Jesus anti-liturgy?”
Then, in a lightning round of questions he fields a number of hot-button issues.
For instance: Why can’t women be priests?
“Pope Francis called it the height of clericalism to say I can only be important if I’m a priest,” Swafford says. (“Women in the Church must be valued, not ‘clericalized,’” Pope Francis has said. “Whoever thinks of women as cardinals suffers a bit from clericalism.”) But Swafford goes on to describe the Old Testament understanding of the priest as not just a mediator who offers sacrifice — but one who is also a spiritual father.
Which leads to the next question: Why do we call priests Father when Jesus explicitly says not to?
It is worth listening to Swafford’s answers just to hear his incredible mastery of Scripture chapter and verse and Catechism references. He shows this when he lists all the places Scripture calls priests fathers.
But the hardest question is the one that elicits his best answer in the lightning round: “Why do we have priests at all? Why do we need another mediator besides Jesus?”
Swafford begins by saying “The tearing of the veil at Jesus’s death points to two things. The end of the Old Covenant world and the unleashing of God’s presence into the world.”
There follows a tour of Scripture that can make the sacraments come alive in an extraordinary way. It is of a piece with Swafford’s new Hebrews Bible study that he speaks about at the end of the interview.