Staying Curious

Jesus and Bartimaeus - by Wikipedia bo under CC BY-SA 4.0In his ministry, Jesus often asks others what they want. For example, he asks the blind Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10:51) On another occasion, James and John approach Jesus, and he asks them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10:36) Both in his healing ministry and with his friends, Jesus displays a kind of openness and curiosity toward others.

Until recently, I had never really considered the possibility of a curious Jesus. After all, since Jesus is God, then doesn’t Jesus already know everything that a person needs? Sometimes I have even experienced God seemingly anticipating my needs before I knew them myself. However, in the Gospels, Jesus models for us a way to treat others in our various ministries and relationships.

So I imagine a Jesus who is genuinely curious about others’ desires. Perhaps one of Jesus’ companions assumed from the start that Bartimaeus wanted to see. In this story, that turns out to be true, but it is conceivable that he could have wanted something completely different. So Jesus asks.

Jesus asks James and John what they want, and while they ask for privileged places in heaven, we can guess that their true desires go much deeper. Jesus asks them, “What do you want?” and lets them name their own desires. Perhaps their spoken desire reflects a deeper neediness in them for care, respect, or some affirmation of their relationship to Jesus. But Jesus doesn’t tell them how it is. He waits for them to discover and to discern. By asking a question, Jesus gives people room to grow.

As I head into the academic year and begin to teach a new group of students, I am considering how to stay curious about my students, colleagues, and even my husband, whom I have known for almost 30 years. As I negotiate a newly “empty nest” and learn how to be a mother to my adult children—who no longer need the same kind of care and guidance that they once did—I am making an effort to do more listening and less talking. Too often, I can make assumptions about other’s needs or motivations. When I remind myself to be curious about what another person might be wanting, thinking, or doing, I am better situated to be responsive rather than reactive.

Asking genuine questions that arise from curiosity rather than presumption helps us to be more deeply aware of God’s presence in those around us. Staying curious about others allows us to reverence the mystery of another person. Staying curious gives us room to be surprised by God.

“Bartimeo almozulo de la evangelio” image by Wikipedia bo under CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

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Marina Berzins McCoy
Marina Berzins McCoy is a professor at Boston College, where she teaches philosophy and in the BC PULSE service-learning program. She is the author of The Ignatian Guide to Forgiveness and Wounded Heroes: Vulnerability as a Virtue in Ancient Greek Philosophy. She and her husband are the parents to two young adults and live in the Boston area.


  1. I feel rather than being curious, my deep rooted assumptions has caused hurting experiences in my life. After assuming, I sacrifice my all for that assumption and when it’s not appreciated, I feel wounded..

    It’s just because they never wanted it in the first place…
    I should have always asked that simple question..
    Why are you here?
    What do you seek?
    This would have saved me from the numerous injuries in my life.
    Thank you for this reflection..

  2. Thank you for sharing. I often ask for the grace of being amazed and looking every person and things with the fresh eyes as a new day begin.
    I think it is very important for us to stay curious as you said. Let’s us never fail to be surprised at life around us.

  3. Thank you for this reflection. I sometimes think I know, feel rooted, but you help me see that I need to be open and curious.

  4. Thanks Marina
    This is very affirming in the work that I do with folk in the last weeks or months of life where allowing them to express what their wishes and desires are is so important, being open to that rather than assuming you know what they want

  5. Dear Marina, Thank you for this refreshing pondering. As a member of the Ignatian Spirituality Project in Boston, I I am constantly blessed with the privilege of being allowed “to reverence the mystery of another person…and be surprised by God”. The generosity of my homeless and formerly homeless friends have been my doorway to experiencing God more and more fully in my every day life. In gratitude, Jay PS- I am typing this on my phone at Saint Francis House, just a few miles away from BC. Best wishes as you begin a new academic year.

    • Thanks for sharing about how spending time with people who are homeless has been an opportunity for friendship and reverence. Blessings.

  6. As my wife and I grow into our retirement years, we look for ways to down-size. And, more and more often, we engage in the discussion of what are our wants and what are our needs. I have discovered that in my life of prayer, I asking Jesus and the Holy Spirit guide me to have insight into what I need in faith journey. This is coupled with the prayer for genuine acceptance of the path that I need to walk.

    • I like that coupling of asking for insight but also acceptance of whatever the insight brings in prayer. Thanks for your comment.

    • Thanks Russ for your comment. By the way are you the Russ I know from the Philippines, who used to work for Ford Foundation and who married Claudette?

  7. Jesus asking “what do you want?” makes me reflect on this past week’s readings of Jesus telling Peter, “get thee behind me Satan” to check whether I am seeing through God’s eyes or my own. Wondering to ask God what my true needs are. Truly His Grace of love, mercy and compassion would be on the top of the list.

  8. We can see also from the other side. I’ve found myself when meditating those passages, that when Jesus asks me “What do you want?”, my reaction is asking to myself “Er, well… what do I want?” Because I don’t know what I really want. In some cases like Bartimeus’ one, it would appear obvious, but that’s not always the case. Quite often, we have to dig deeper into our apparent, sometimes worldly desires in order to find out the real needs we have.


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