Am I Sick? Naw, I Don’t Think So

by Steve Ray on October 14, 2009

The lady at the pet store told me I was a sick individual. I didn’t think so, but then again I am biased and think I’m OK – and my wife tends to agree with me.

The whole thing started because of a small hobby of mine. When I was a little boy my dad bought me binoculars and a bird book. I sat under trees for hours and kept track of the birds I found. It was great fun. How many people have had the pleasure of discovering Indigo Buntings, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Rufous-sided Towhees, or Northern Snowbirds?

Janet and I live in the country with a large field behind our house. Last week a raccoon was hit by a car near our home—it didn’t listen to his mother when she warned him about playing in the road. At least that’s what we told our kids as they were growing up—a lesson in obeying parents!

Anyway, I had the crazy idea to pick up the dead raccoon, toss him on the hood of my car, and throw him in our back field to see if the Turkey Vultures would come to eat it. Looking at the head of this vulture will give you an idea where he got his name. The lady at the pet store told me I was a sick individual because I told her what I had done.  I told her our bird feeders are often visited by the smallest bird in Michigan – the hummingbird – so we thought we would try to attract one of the largest birds in Michigan.

It didn’t take long. The large shadow passed by my window as I was working on my laptop and sure enough it was Mr. Vulture circling with his 6 foot wingspan. I slipped out to the back porch to watch. Janet joined me and we were intrigued as nine Turkey Vultures from every corner of the county swirled and swooped, landing around the raccoon to tear the corpse to ribbons with their sharp, hooked beaks. They fought, danced, challenged each other with their wings spread—all while Janet and I watched the show. They came back the next few days until all that was left was a bare skeleton.

We told the grandkids about the vultures and they said, “Bampa, ‘nother  coon! We want see bultures!” So I jumped in the car and found another road-kill-coon and brought him back on the hood of my car. I got more than one shocked look from fellow drivers. I was laughing my head off—kind of like watching people react on Candid Camera.

It wasn’t long before the whole feathered gang was putting on a show for us again in the back yard. The grandkids sat and watched and kept shouting “bulchers, bampa, bultures!”

It got me thinking of what the Bible says about vultures and birds of prey. There are about ten species of high-flying, carrion-eating birds in Israel. They are all kind of lumped together in the Bible. My book Birds of Israel says that one is called an Egyptian Vulture (see picture below) and another the Common Buzzard.

The Jews were forbidden to eat these birds. Geez, I guess so. When I was about ten years old, I caught a baby vulture and he puked rotten meat all over me. It was his means of self defense—scaring off the enemy, and it worked!

Who could image eating an ugly bird that eats such rotten meat? The Jews were also forbidden from eating catfish since they are also bottom feeders. Even today Jewish fishermen kill every catfish they catch to decrease their population in the Sea of Galilee. God forbade Jews from eating such animals—and pigs too.

Jesus mentions these birds once in the gospels. It is recorded in Matthew 24:28 and Luke 17:37. In speaking of the end times he says, “Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.” It seems Jesus is quoting a common proverb of his time. No one is quite sure what Jesus meant and it is difficult to figure out. Word Biblical Commentary thinks it refers to the unmistakable character of Jesus Second Coming. As surely as you know that where you see vultures gathered there is a carcass, so you will not be able to miss the coming of the Son of Man.

But others think it means that at the end of time, just as these birds of prey gather where the rotting carcasses are, so the judgments of God will descend upon the corrupt state of humanity. When the world has degenerated to the point that it resembles a maggot-infested corpse, when the world’s cup of iniquity is full, then Christ will condemn the world. The vultures might represent the judgment of God.

Carrion eating birds are mentioned again at the judgment in the last days, “Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly in midheaven, ‘Come, gather for the great supper of God, to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men,’. . . And the rest were slain by the sword of him who sits upon the horse, the sword that issues from his mouth; and all the birds were gorged with their flesh” (Rev 17:17-21).

As I watched the vultures gorging on the dead raccoons this week, I thought of the end times when the world becomes so corrupt and putrid—crawling with maggots and foul smelling in God’s nostrils—that God will put an end to it and judge the earth. Christ will come again. In that day the vultures will not waste time on raccoons, they will feast on human flesh. They will fill their foul bellies with meat torn from the enemies of God.

Last Sunday at Mass I recited the Nicene Creed and I believed it. “We look for the resurrection of the body and the life of the world to come.”  I, for one, expect my flesh to rise on the last day to glory and the beatific vision, not to be torn and eaten by the hooked bills of stinking, unclean birds—symbolic of the judgment and punishment of God.

But in the meantime, we will enjoy watching the vultures eat from our unique birdfeeder in the back yard. It will be a daily reminder to be holy and remain in the grace and friendship of God—prepared for the Last Day and the final judgment.

I will also try to convince myself that I am not a sick individual. By the way, what right did that lady have to call me sick when she was selling me crickets to feed to my tarantula? The nerve of some people!

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Jim August 13, 2008 at 4:12 AM

Awesome story, Mr Steve. You, by all means, are not sick. I believe the issue is people thinking of dead remains in a culture that is scared of anything that resembles death. Maybe they reflect about their own lives and that there is no resurrection or after-life, thus the scare. We, as a faith, believe in something miraculous and beautiful and powerful such as the resurrection, death is not scary in the slightest.

As the law of man alters from the law of God and people not knowing or caring the difference, we are sure to see a chain reaction in loss of morals. Look at how dreadfully close this election is… Regardless who wins, it should NOT be this close. If the lesser of evils wins, we have an idea of what is to come in future elections. How I imagine what our forefathers are thinking right now….

Jim

Patty Bonds August 13, 2008 at 11:31 AM

The recycling of animal flesh is called the circle of life. All you did was move the circle to your back yard so your grandkids could witness it. Now if you want to see “sick” hang out anywhere where the present generation dwells and notice how many tee-shirts and tatoos focus around human death: skulls, skeletons, death and demons. We are becoming so desensitized to death that it’s now fashion ware. Now that is sick.

Patty

Paul Delgadillo August 13, 2008 at 5:24 PM

Four years ago, I took a course that was for future counselors and social workers. The topic that most of the students, who were living very immoral lives at the time, most feared was the topic of death. Since I have a chronic illness, I face the fact that I may die soon. However, since I converted back to the full practice of my Catholic faith, I am becoming more keenly aware of the effects of the “Culture of Death.” I, for one, was continually lied to by college professors who were either atheists or agnostics. Whenever I hear my professors in grad-school mouthing off, I just respond that the day that professor dies and rises from the dead I will believe him or her.

Patty Bonds August 14, 2008 at 1:09 PM

OOh! I love that line! I will definitely be using that one, Paul!

Jean August 15, 2008 at 10:43 PM

I can’t remember where I heard this, but I like it: “Good health just mean that you are dying at the slowest possible speed.” But you are dying. The mortality rate for the human race is 100%.

Vince Contreras August 17, 2008 at 1:40 AM

Thank God (literally) for scavengers like Mr. Vulture. If not for them, the earth would be littered with the corpses of rotting animals of all kind who have gone the way of all flesh.

Re: Jesus’ saying above from the Olivet Discourse describing (primarily) the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish Temple in 70 AD, I’ve also heard (from Scott Hahn, I think) that the “vultures” could be translated as “eagles” — Eagles such as were emblazoned on the standards of the Roman soldiers that destroyed the city and Temple.

Kenny August 18, 2008 at 1:12 PM

Off topic theologically, but I thought I’d mention that the Romans were rather fond of vultures. Unlike crows or other birds, they did not go after small livestock or crops. They saw them as excellent omens.

kentuckyliz August 19, 2008 at 8:11 AM

You’re not sick.

In fact, next time you go on a roadkill run, hold up the dead coon and say, “That thar’s good eats!” Lick your lips and rub your belly in delicious anticipation.

“Good health just mean that you are dying at the slowest possible speed.”

I like that! Some people make an idol out of health. Idols are dumb.

Martin Tohill DVM August 19, 2008 at 9:11 AM

PLEASE ! A very good reason for a raccoon to be hit by a car would be that the raccoon was rabid. Yeah, yeah I hear ya, “I’m careful”. Still I could not advise someone to knowingly handle splattered, dead possibly rabid animals. Maybe you could leave dead rabbits or something.

Raymond Mensah August 19, 2008 at 11:04 AM

See, this is the way God teaches uneducated people around the world…observation and wisdom.
Hi Steve, it is Raymond your friend. We are now in NC.

archie rhines September 17, 2008 at 9:54 AM

Great wit! It will get you in trouble one day. Ha!

Barbara Edsall October 21, 2009 at 9:15 PM

Feeding a dead animal to live animals so they can eat, seems logical to me. Owning a tarantula, however…And by the way, Steve, have you become into a snake handler (hair-raising picture at the beginning of the blog)? You obviously are more adventurous than I could ever think about! Blessings to you–Barbara

Barbara Edsall October 21, 2009 at 9:17 PM

Sorry about the typo, should have been “have you become a snake handler”. Nobody’s perfect. Thank God He is!

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