Today's Gospel relates a story that is bizarre on more than one level. In it, Jesus goes to the land of the "Gerasenes"--pagan territory. He is immediately faced by a deranged man, a danger to himself and to others, and when Jesus addresses the evil spirit who is behind it all, numerous spirits respond. Jesus orders them to leave the man, they take over a herd of pigs which run suicidally over the cliff and into the sea. The man is restored to himself, and the townspeople beg Jesus to leave before their whole economic system collapses.
Then comes the really strange part. The healed man begs, pleads and prays that Jesus will let him become his follower.
Jesus says, "No."
On one level, we can say, "Well, Jesus had thousands of now-and-again followers. The man could have followed Jesus anytime he wanted." But that is not what the man was evidently asking. He wanted to be among those whom the Lord had chosen "to be with him and that he might send them." Among the Twelve, in other words. And that role, to be the foundation-stones of the Church, belonged to the People of Israel. In this, Jesus was continuing God's faithfulness to the Covenant.
But there is more than this, especially as relates to this man's life.
Jesus told him "Go home to your family and make known to them how much the Lord in his mercy has done for you."
Jesus was restoring the man to the family that had lost him so painfully, so long before. And he sent the man with a mission, to make known among the pagans of his own family and town the goodness and mercy of the God of Israel. He was sharing in the mission the apostles would one day have (Jesus chose them "to be with him and that he might send them"), but the "being with him" part would be less evident. The presence of Jesus would be there in the renewed wholeness of this unnamed man's life.